The case for a national, public childcare investment
Even with the "beer and popcorn" gaffes, its turning out that the debate over a national childcare programme is becoming a main issue in this election.
And now that the NDP has issued their childcare policy, the debate has become much more interesting. As reported elsewhere, the NDP proposes a policy that recognizes the need for a public system, like the Liberals, while still giving parents some no-strings-attached money, like the Conservatives.
Most of this debate centres on how to implement the system, but there are still a few of my conservative friends who don't see the need for a system at all. I won't delve into the routine reasons - helping working parents make ends meet, giving real choices to them for childcare - but make the case for a national child care investment based on economics.
Simply, an investment in childcare is good for the economy as a whole. It increases our productivity and competitiveness. This according to a 2003 study by University of Toronto Economists Gordon Cleveland and Michael Krashinsky.
Krashinsky and Cleveland debunk a great many myths about childcare and early childhood education, but in particular they put to rest the entire idea that "it costs too much" quite handily. According to the study, they estimate that mothers of young children currently in the labour force account for 5% of our GDP.
"...we estimated the contribution to G.D.P. of mothers with young children
now in the labour force at about $53 billion, about 5% of G.D.P. When we further
considered the reduction in investment in the long run in a now smaller economy,
the estimate of the loss was $83 billion , or about 7.5% of G.D.P. Put another
way, a large part of Canada’s global competitiveness is due to the productivity of its working parents . It “costs too much” not to have these parents working."
Both men, in a "Freakonmics-esque" twist, considered the money spent on daycare to be an investment in human capital and infrastructure rather than as a cost or consumption. Their research shows that for every $1 spent by governments results in $2 in benefit realized (see above, page 58). That is a great return on investment, by any measure. They propose a system like the one in Quebec:
"Finally, it should be emphasized that while the $6.3 billion annual price
tag on our proposal (not all of that is new money,of course) is certainly
significant,it is hardly extraordinary. The figure is roughly 1/2 of 1 percent of
Canada’s G.D.P. (and G.D.P. itself would rise as more parents enter the labour
force). Many OECD countries spend more than that on child care and early
So, a federal govenment investment in childcare pays untold dividends for all Canaidans, in enhanced competitiveness and a greater GDP, as well as for those working Canadians who will use it. For their significant contribution to the economy, they get decent childcare as well as more mney in their pocket. This will in turn be good for the economy as well.
Given that, then, I think it is clear that the NDP's childcare plan is the best. It provides funding to create and maintain over 200 000 daycare spaces in the first year alone, in the most economical fashion - non-profit centres. It sets standards and invests the money directly to daycare programs, with accountability that it will be spent on childcare. It also gives parents an extra $1000 in discretionary funds for each child through the child tax credit - only $1 per day less than the CPC plan.
Once again, the NDP stands up for Canadians and provides a sound economic vision of the future.