Canada: Competing to Win

House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance pre-budget report for 2006

Media release


“Life long learning


1. Early Learning and Child Care

Since decisions about early learning and child care for Canadian children have important implications for the first stages of human capital development and parents’ labour market participation, such witnesses as the Canadian Child Care Federation and the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba encouraged the federal government — in collaboration with the provincial/territorial governments — to develop a national family or social policy framework with national child care as a cornerstone.

Regarding child benefits, witnesses suggested that:

  • the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) be expanded to include children between the ages of 6 and 12 years;
  • benefits paid through the taxable UCCB be redirected to the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) to ensure that families in which both partners work outside the home are not penalized;
  • the maximum value of the CCTB be increased, with many groups advocating $4,900 or $5,000 per child, indexed for inflation; and
  • the federal government work with the provinces/territories to end the clawback of the federally funded National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) from low-income families with children.

Such witnesses as the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba, the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, Make Poverty History, the Canadian Co-operative Association, Communities for Children, and Dalhousie University, School of Social Work supported the development of a pan-Canadian, publicly funded early learning and child care (ELCC) system that respects the QUAD principles of quality, universality, accessibility and development.

Some witnesses expressed their preference for regulated and/or not-for-profit child care or, in the case of the Canadian Co-operative Association, for the development of child care co-operatives. It was suggested that federal investments be sufficient and appropriately allocated to ensure that an ELCC system meets the needs of all regions of Canada (including urban, rural and remote communities), of all children (including children aged 6 to 12 years, disabled children and Aboriginal children who live on- and off-reserve), and of all parents (regardless of the type of child care their situation requires).

While the requested level of federal investment in an ELCC system varied among witnesses, many groups advocated sustained and dedicated multi-year funding to the provinces/territories. Some witnesses, including SpeciaLink, specifically advocated the reinstatement of the federal-provincial/territorial Moving Forward on Child Care Agreements. The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the BC Child Care Advocacy Forum stated their preference for shifting child care costs from users to governments over time, with some groups advocating a short-term goal of reducing total user fee contributions to a maximum of 20% of the total cost of child care.

Witnesses, including the Manitoba Child Care Association, told the Committee about the need to ensure, through monitoring and reporting requirements, that the provinces/territories are held accountable for their expenditure of federal ELCC funds. Other witnesses argued for guarantees that federal funds be used to supplement — rather than replace — provincial/territorial spending. To this end, several groups supported the enactment of federal child care legislation. The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and the New Brunswick Child Care Coalition suggested that any legislation adopted respect the rights of Quebec and First Nations to establish their own child care systems.

The need for additional affordable and high-quality child care spaces was noted by a number of groups, including the National Children’s Alliance and the National Council of Welfare, TLC Centre Inc. and the Portage Day Care Center. Witnesses shared their suggestions about how the $250 million identified in the 2006 federal budget should be used to create child care spaces. The Fraser Valley KAIROS Group supported tax incentives to encourage business to create child care spaces, while other witnesses — including the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care — preferred that the provinces/territories receive funding in the form of dedicated transfers for child care. The Committee was reminded by the Human Early Learning Partnership, among other witnesses, about the importance of investing in the ongoing operation of child care spaces once the initial capital investment has been made.

Not all witnesses supported a national ELCC strategy, however. REAL Women of Canada shared with the Committee the results of a 2005 survey by the Vanier Institute of the Family, which found that 90% of Canadians believed that, in two-parent families, one parent should ideally stay at home and raise the children. Furthermore, the survey revealed that parental care ranked first and child care centres ranked fifth when parents were asked whom they would prefer to care for their preschoolers.

Some witnesses, such as Mothers on the Rampage, the Kids First Parent Association of Canada, the Care of the Child Coalition and REAL Women of Canada, believed that federal child care-related funds should be provided directly to individuals and families, who could then direct them to the caregiver of their choice. Proponents of this approach suggested that it would provide more equitable treatment of women who choose to stay in the home and those who work in the paid labour force. To this end, REAL Women of Canada and the Kids First Parent Association of Canada advocated the creation of a refundable tax credit for all children in order that families would be compensated for expenses incurred, regardless of the child care method they choose.

There was also no consensus on the appropriate role, if any, for the federal government with respect to child care associations. The Manitoba Child Care Association requested that the federal government sufficiently fund national and provincial/territorial child care associations, which provide research and resources to regulated ELCC programs. Other witnesses advocated the elimination of federal funding for child care lobbyists and advocates.

The Committee also heard suggestions related to the child care workforce. The Canadian Child Care Federation recommended the development of a national human resources strategy for the child care sector to address such issues as wages and benefits as well as national standards for training to facilitate the inter-provincial/territorial movement of workers. To enhance the quality and stability of the child care workforce, incentives for ongoing professional development as well as prior learning assessment and recognition to allow experienced child care providers to gain needed educational requirements were also advocated. The Face of Poverty Consultation was among the witnesses that encouraged increased salaries and/or benefits for professionally trained early childhood educators and caregivers.


The federal government amend the Income Tax Act to increase the value of the Canada Child Tax Benefit. Following this increase, the value of the tax benefit should be increased annually to reflect changes in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Moreover, the government — in conjunction with the provincial/territorial governments — should fund a national, accessible, affordable, high-quality, publicly regulated child care system. This system should respect any provincial/territorial child care programs already in effect, recognizing the leadership of the province of Quebec.”

Full report