Federal Budget 2013

Tories are ignoring children and families

By Marc Lalonde, director of communications for the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. and Sharon Gregson, Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. and director of child and family development services at Collingwood Neighbourhood House Society
Times Colonist
March 29, 2013

The federal government states its priorities are jobs and a strong economy, yet it ignores the best method to achieve both these goals.

There is a way to dramatically increase employment and government revenue, grow GDP and pump money into local economies. The Conservative government of Canada is ignoring what experts and business leaders agree on — that investing in children’s early years provides the biggest bang for the taxpayers’ buck.

The evidence and research is undeniable. A 2009 Canadian study by the Centre for Spatial Economics reports that investing in child care has a bigger job-multiplier effect and more employment-per-dollar activity than any other sector.

In Quebec, a publicly funded child-care system made it possible for an additional 70,000 mothers of young children to enter the labour force. Their employment contributed an additional $5.2 billion to the Quebec economy and increased GDP by 1.7 per cent. The returns more than pay for the investment Quebec makes in child care. According to the C.D. Howe Institute, the Quebec model of a cost-shared, publicly funded child-care system increased immediate tax revenue to government by 40 per cent.

According to respected economist Robert Fairholm, child care creates strong economic stimulus, where every dollar invested in child care increases the economy’s output (GDP) by $2.02, one of the highest GDP impacts of all major sectors.

The World Bank published a major report in 2011 on the benefits of investing in the early years and stated a potential annual return rate of seven to 16 per cent, and proclaimed it to be a sound fiscal investment. The Economist magazine commissioned its own study, Starting Well: Benchmarking Early Education Across the World, and stated: “As countries increasingly compete on the basis of their talent and human capital, they need to invest in all their people as early in life as possible.”

The same report said: “The first is simply about ensuring that ECE [early childhood education] is on the policy radar and not overlooked in the battle for funding.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman found that investing in the early years promotes long-term success in education, raises the quality of the work force, raises income levels and reduces crime, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency and health-care costs.

Why is our government ignoring these facts?

In 2012, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children Committee wrote a scathing review of Canada’s poor performance in meeting the basic rights of our children, citing the “high cost of child care, lack of available places, the absence of uniform training requirements for all child-care staff and of standards of quality care … despite the state party’s significant resources.”

Since the 2006 inception of the Universal Child Care Benefit (the federal government’s $100-a-month taxable payment to families) the program has cost Canadians $15 billion without creating one new child-care space for families, and with absolutely no accountability to taxpayers.

There is a severe lack of affordable, regulated child-care spaces, particularly for children under three years old. In a recently televised investigation of unlicensed child care, CBC’s Marketplace was able to document many examples of children left in illegal and unsafe arrangements. Clearly, too many Canadian parents have nothing but bad choices available to them.

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development ranked Canada last of the 20 wealthiest countries for investment in the early years with a meagre 0.25 per cent of GDP. As the Conference Board of Canada recognizes in its February 2013 report on inequality in Canada, as other nations prosper and develop a more diverse tax base, Canada will head toward a nation of “have and have-nots.” As the leading economic nations of the world develop their populations as collaborative forces of highly skilled, knowledge-based labourers, Canada will be left behind as simply a natural-resource provider.

Investing in the early years is unquestionably the best economic strategy for a nation. The real question is: Why does the Harper government refuse to live up to its promise of job creation and a strong economy, by ignoring the children and tax-paying working parents of this country?

Read online

– – – – –

New shoes and a haircut: Budget 2013 not so pretty for women in Canada
By Kate McInturff
March 21, 2013

The Finance Minister got a new pair of shoes. Canadians got a new federal budget. And women in Canada got another haircut.

Budget 2013 is all about Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! And who wouldn’t like a job. Maybe some training. Maybe even a full-time job. With benefits. And a pension plan. Oh go crazy, let’s throw in equal pay.

Not so fast girls! NO JOB FOR YOU!

Why not?

1. Women and the extractive industry

The federal budget’s job creation strategy is largely focused on sectors where women are significantly under-represented: construction, manufacturing, mining. 18.6 per cent of jobs in the mining, quarrying, oil, and gas extraction industries in Canada are held by women. If you are part of the 18.6 per cent, you are still going to take a 20-30 per cent haircut on your wages. Because, oh yes, pay inequity is alive and well in the extractive industry.

Although the extractive sector anticipates increasing shortages of workers, only 14.6 per cent have recruitment policies targeted at women. But do women want those jobs? (Mucky! Dirty! Unfeminine!) Yes Virginia, there are women who want to work in the extractive sector. But those women have identified several barriers to taking up that work, including:

1) the lack of child-care and flexible work practices (because who is going to look after the kids while you spend two weeks on the mining site?);
2) a hostile “work culture”; and
3) the lack of women in management positions.

Oddly enough, managers in the extractive industries did not identify these barriers. Could it be that the real mismatch is between the needs of workers and the perceptions of employers?

2. Women and infrastructure spending

Budget 2013 appears to set out a fresh wave of much-needed infrastructure spending. However, this budget actually represents a reduction in spending. The Building Canada Fund has been reduced to $210 million in 2014-15 from its previous level of $1.25 billion a year. All other funding for infrastructure in the federal budget is a re-announcement of pre-existing programs. The infrastructure spending that is included in Budget 2013 is also set to create new jobs. Unfortunately, infrastructure spending creates jobs where women are not.

According to the most recent labor force survey, there are 382,100 Canadians working in construction. 6 per cent of those workers are women. Budget 2013 argues that we are going to need to fill an additional 319,000 jobs in construction by 2020. If women’s participation in the construction trade were increased to 30 per cent by the same year, that would contribute 194,730 new workers to fill the shortfall (with 124,270 new jobs for male workers).

If we are going to support the workers we need to fill those jobs, however, we are going to have to look at the same set of barriers women in the mining industry identified — the need for child care and work hours that accommodate the fact that women still do two-thirds of all unpaid labor; a shift in workplace cultures that subject women to harassment and bullying; and more women managers whose presence will signal to young workers that this is a field in which they can advance.

How does Budget 2013 propose to solve this problem of connecting workers and jobs? By investing $300 million in a “Canada Job Grant” program. The Canada Job Grant Program provides federal matching funds of up to $5000 per person to the employer. In industries where there is a clear mismatch between employee needs and employers understanding of those needs, putting these “job grants” in the hands of the employer seems like not such a good idea — particularly when there is a skilled workforce out there, looking for these jobs, but unable to access them for lack of social supports, such as child care, and equity guarantees.

Here’s a thought, how about we start saying pay equity like we mean it and how about we put that $300 million into safe, quality childcare for workers in those industries? Given the ridiculously long waiting lists for unaffordable and significantly unregulated child-care spots across Canada, there are bound to be plenty of women (and men) who would take any job anywhere if it came with safe, quality, subsidized child care.

3. Private sector jobs

Budget 2013 continues the program of shifting job creation to the private sector, while cutting jobs in the public sector. Women looking for work in the private sector can expect to make $2000 less <http://cupe.ca/economics/battle-wages-paid-more-public-private> a year on average than they do in the public sector, have less support for savings for retirement, and see the discount on their pay increase.

The public sector is one of the few places where women see smaller pay gaps (only a 20 per cent discount on their work vs. 28 per cent on average) and greater gains in hiring and promotion. That said, even these gains have been significantly undermined, first in the 2009 Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which stripped public employees of the right to pay equity and again in 2012, when Bill C-38 made similar changes to the Federal Contractors Program, leaving compliance with the Employment Equity Act for contractors of the federal government to the discretion of the Minister. Marjorie Griffin Cohen points out that “there would be no reason to change this legislation if the Minister intended to continue to apply the employment equity provisions.”

It’s clear that an investment in creating jobs in the public sector (or at least not cutting them) would be good for women’s employment, but what else has it done for us lately? An investment in public sector social infrastructure, in fields such as health care, child care, and education, would yield a double benefit. It would create more jobs in sectors in which women are likely to be employed and would decrease the burden of unpaid work for both men and women. It’s not a big, shiny bridge or sexy “cyber-infrastructure,” but it is what keeps us healthy, educated, and just a little less sleep-deprived.

And that is some action I’d like to see.

Read online