The Imbalance of National Daycare

Now that the Globe & Mail has taken a valium for its national daycare hysteria, perhaps cooler heads will prevail.

I have previously expressed that a national daycare program is unnecessary and tramples on parental choice. However, some of you have written to me arguing that a national program would help low-income families. Certainly, I support a helping families who have hit hard times, but is a national daycare program the solution? Looking at Quebec’s system, clearly not.

Quebec, which brags about its subsidized $7/day daycare program, ought to take a closer look at who their subsidized program is actually helping. Predictably, research shows that with the roll-out of $7/day daycare, demand for subsidized spots has skyrocketed- and not among lower income families.

Parents who would have previously stayed at home are now incentivized by low daycare costs to return to work. Stay-at-home mothers are enrolling their children in the system simply because it is so cheap. the majority of families using the system earn more than $60,000. Families with relatively lower income (between $25,000-$40,000) are in worse financial shape than before this program was created. Not only are these families competing with an influx of wealthier families seeking subsidized spots, but they are burdened with heavier taxes. Additionally, a subsidized program creates unfair competition to private operators, and ultimately puts them out of business, resulting in reduced parental choice. Now lower-income families face increased competition for fewer daycare spots, while enjoying an increased tax burden. How’s that for a helping hand!

If governments truly wants to help lower-income families cope with child care, then institute a voucher system for those who qualify. Don’t burden these families with higher taxes to pay for an expensive daycare program for higher classes who really don’t need it. Don’t ghettoize lower-income families by forcing them into a subsidized daycare program for those of similar means. Perhaps the government ought to consider supporting parental choice for lower-income families by offering the voucher credit toward a parent who wants to stay at home with their child. Research shows that 76% of Canadians believe it is best for children under 6 to be at home with a parent, so perhaps the government ought to help low-income families realize this.

Ultimately, offering a national daycare program will not help lower-income families; it will create more demand for an expensive program, ultimately putting lower-income families in a worse financial position than before.