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This article was published 15/5/2015 (1750 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Child care matters — to children, parents, employers, our city and province. But the federal government refuses to listen and to act. This week, child-care advocates from across Canada are joining together to call for a universally accessible, quality, affordable comprehensive child-care system.
Several demographic trends in Manitoba hasten the need for more investment in child care. Manitoba welcomed 16,000 newcomers last year, many arriving with children. For newcomers to settle, to access education and employment and to integrate into their new lives, quality child care is required. As well, the median age of the aboriginal population is half that of non-aboriginal residents, and they're having children. These characteristics require a solid infrastructure that can sustain families, and their child-care needs. When this is in place, families get what they need to give back to the community and economy.
The current lack of child care is a crisis and a lost opportunity for our children, especially those most vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion. But the inability to find a child-care space or affordable child care makes it virtually impossible for already disadvantaged parents to find a job, much less establish long-term careers. When a parent is out of the labour force, it affects that family's current income and future earnings. Work experience, seniority and pensions are not accumulated. This exacerbates poverty and increases household debt.
The Manitoba government's community plan to reduce poverty specifies the need to address the children currently wait-listed for access, by creating 12,000 new licensed spaces. Endorsed by over 100 organizations, The View from Here 2015: Manitobans Call for a Renewed Poverty Reduction Plan, calls for an investment in early learning and child care. Importantly, it recognizes that in order to grow the system, there needs to be enough trained early childhood educators. This workforce needs to be recruited and retained in order to secure a quality child-care system robust enough to respond to the current need and continue to expand.
Investing in child care is win/win for everyone. Expanding the child-care sector will create jobs in the child-care sector, as well as enable parents to return to paid work.
In fact, spending on child care more than pays for itself. After two decades of Quebec's low-cost child-care system, economists find for every dollar invested, $1.05 is recouped while Ottawa receives a 44-cent windfall through increased income taxes from parent wages. Economic activity increased, including consumption and corporate and business taxes. Alongside these benefits, Quebec's child-poverty rate was nearly halved and is among the lowest in the country.
Child care is a huge issue for families, and federal investment is needed to realize the potential of the child-care system in Manitoba quality early learning and economic development. The province has taken significant steps to increase the number of funded child-care spaces across the province, improve training and wages for child-care workers and wants to build a universally accessible child-care system. However, it needs a willing federal partner to make this happen. The Child Care Coalition of Manitoba joins the province in calling on the federal government to build a national child-care plan.
Early learning for children shapes future outcomes and improves quality of life for children and their families now. When we consider its socioeconomic impact as well as developmental benefits, early childhood education and care could well be the greatest equalizer of all. We need a federal government willing to take action before more families and our economy loses out.
Dominique Arbez is an instructor of early childhood education at the Université de Saint-Boniface, a member of the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba and a research affiliate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Manitoba. Visit votechildcare.ca for more information.