Watch for Children Sign

Wanted: More Money for Childcare

Toronto City Councillor Michael Walker is calling on the City Council to push the Federal Government into offering greater subsidies for childcare. His motion comes in the wake of a recent announcement from Toronto's daycare service that it will be forced to shut 6,000 (that's about one-quarter) of city-run subsidized spaces. The city says it will begin closing the spaces as early as this fall unless it finds a way to compensate for a $63-million shortfall in federal funding.

In this week's motion, Councillor Walker is requesting that the City Council "convey in the strongest terms possible" to the Federal government that it should maintain childcare subsidies at 2008 levels and include this in the 2009 budget. In the Federal Government's most recent budget, there are no new spending programs for childcare.

The issue of childcare has been a particularly hot one for the Harper government. You might remember that back in 2006 the Liberal government was pushing to implement a Universal program for childcare. Once the Harper government came to power, the program was scrapped and a number of tax credits and small subsidies were put in its place.

Childcare subsidies are a highly contentious issue, both with citizens and politicians. What I find interesting about Councillor Walker's motion is the language he employs to stress the severity of the situation. Some might call this kind of language over-the-top and dramatic, and they would probably be right to do so. Here's a little taste:

"Our global economy is damaged worse than anyone has seen before. Canada lost 129,000 jobs in January. Toronto's rate of unemployment is 8.5 percent. Toronto's real estate market has fallen. The Federal governments of Canada and the United States have meddled by pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into a financial system no one fully understands. Confidence in the stock markets is fleeting and is ruined by short-term greed. We have not hit bottom yet; this downturn will not be over next year."

I particularly like when Walker throws the U.S. government under the bus for good measure. I almost feel like I'm listening to conservative talk radio. He later pleas for the sake of Toronto residents, saying the city's "families cannot bear to lose these daycare spots. We, as City Council, must speak-up quickly so an amendment can be made to the Federal government's 2009 Budget; Budget deliberations are occurring right now."

Walker's not alone in calling on the Federal government to put more money into the nation's child care services. In response to the 2009 budget the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) says it's, "perfectly clear that the federal government is happy with its last place ranking on the international child care scale." Ouch. The CCAAC goes on to point out that Canada recently tied for last place in the UNICEF's December 2008 report card on child care and other family support programs. Canada achieved only one out of ten performance benchmarks.

Until the final budget is passed, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. At least we're lucky enough to read some of these juicy motions in the meantime.

Photo by Trevor Haldenby


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