Child Care Debate

CTV News and Current Affairs
Guests: Sharon Gregson, Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and Kate Tennier, Founder, Advocates for Child Care Choice.

THOMSON: It’s been a hotly debated topic in the halls of Parliament and of course across the country. What is the future of child care? A new report from Statistics Canada shows that more and more parents are sending their children to daycare. Should the government give parents a yearly cheque? Or should the money go to national and provincial daycare programs?

We debate that issue with Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of British Columbia. She’s in Vancouver this morning. And here in Toronto, Kate Tennier of Advocates for Child Care Choice.

Good morning to both of you, and thanks for coming in…

THOMSON: Let me begin with you, Kate. An editorial that you wrote, or an item that you wrote in the Globe and Mail saying: “Affordable, high-quality, universal child care is bad for kids and bad for the economy.”

KATE TENNIER: Yeah. It’s a complicated piece. I want to focus on the survey. The interesting news is that child care has actually plateaued. When you compare it to 1994, it looks like it’s gone up. But we’ve all been working from the premise that it was 53 percent of children in child care. That was the 2001 statistic. So, the headline should be reading that over the course of two years when daycare has increased in Quebec we’ve only gone up one percent. So, the rest of Canada has actually plateaued for the first time since these statistics have been kept, and actually gone down in some areas. So, that just short of shows the spin that we’re always trying to — and we’re a grassroots group, we’re not funded, we’re volunteer —

THOMSON: Right, so statistics aside, do you think $1200 is a good start?

KATE TENNIER: Well, it sets the right principle. And that’s what we’re saying. Because over — and that didn’t include 10 percent of children whose parents are on social assistance. Over half of Canada’s children are cared for by their parents. And we don’t think that, but that’s the truth. And the rest of the half that is in some form of child care averages actually only 27 hours a week. So, there’s only a small minority of children who are in full-time care, a small minority that are in daycare centres. You couldn’t have the Liberal daycare deal stand, because it would discriminate against the majority of Canadian parents.

THOMSON: Let me bring Sharon in on this to respond…

SHARON GREGSON: Well, I have to say to Kate — and all parents who are listening will know this — that just because we use child care, whether it’s a daycare centre or a family day home, we’re still caring for our kids. So, to say that some children are not being cared for by their parents because they use child care is completely wrong. It’s no surprise to me to know that numbers are going up. I work in child care, I’m a working mother —

KATE TENNIER: They’re not going up.

SHARON GREGSON: The numbers are going up. I’m a person who works in the field. I have long waiting lists. I talk to women every day who are beside themselves because they cannot find daycare, they cannot afford daycare, they want good quality for the kids while they work. Let’s talk about the real Canadian reality for working women and for families. We need quality, we need more child-care spaces in this country. And that’s —

THOMSON: But do we need a national [overtalk] — Sharon, do we need a national program, though? And I guess that’s at the centre of this debate.

SHARON GREGSON: Absolutely no doubt. And, Kate, I do disagree with you. The $1200 is not the right premise to be starting from. It doesn’t create more choice for parents at all. When Harris tried it in Ontario his tax-credit scheme didn’t create one new space. It won’t happen in Canada. We need an investment in creating a system. And Harper’s plan is an income-support plan, it’s not a child-care choice allowance by any stretch of the imagination.

THOMSON: But, Kate, when you take a look at the Throne Speech and one of the sentences in there that the Governor-General read was that looking at collaboration between the provinces, seemingly opening the doors [overtalk] — Hold on, hold on, Sharon. Yeah, seeming to open the door to the possibility of an additional program.

KATE TENNIER: What that is is part of their plan to help build daycare spaces. Again, only a small minority of Canadians want daycare spaces.

SHARON GREGSON: Not true, Kate, not true.

KATE TENNIER: Can I continue?


KATE TENNIER: That’s a bottom-up, coming from the community, nonprofit, and other organizations. And that’s fine, because that’s not a government-imposed system. I can’t reiterate strongly enough that the majority of Canadians are in, the majority is actually in full-time parental care. People have been led to believe otherwise. And the rest are in care only part-time. So, we would be discriminating against the vast majority of Canadian families with a national child-care program. So, so we cannot have that unjust social program inflicted on Canadians.

SHARON GREGSON: It’s not unjust at all. We’re talking about a continuum of services. Women who are staying at home full-time are still using part-time services, using preschool. We’re talking about a continuum of services that children can move in and out of that’s high-quality, early childhood development from the time their child is young as an infant until 12 years old. So, whether that’s a family place drop-in, a part-time preschool, full-time daycare in a centre or in a home. A continuum of services that meets the needs of families. We’re not talking about government-imposed institutional care. We’re talking about community-delivered services. We’re talking about the neighbourhood hub model where you know where your local elementary school is, you know where your local swimming pool is, you should also know where your local child-care services are…