The Liberals and NDP have announced their stance on addressing the unnecessary, inconsistent, and unequal access to high-quality ECEC, should they be re-elected as our federal government. As a non-political citizen who has recently become passionate about access to childcare (not a parent, nor a RECE – yet, but a critical undergraduate researcher nonetheless), I’ll share my opinion for anyone willing to hear it – and for the record I am not incentivized in any way, I am merely exploring this mode of advocacy for the field. The breakdown of their stance is actually a decent summary of – and, in theory, an ideal solution to – many of the multifaceted issues regarding the current state of affairs for this sector (spared an actual review of the numbers because this is yet to be an area of my expertise).
Documentation released by the Liberals highlight several issues regarding: lack of available spaces in early learning and child care programs, high and varying costs to access these spaces, the rigidity of these spaces that restricts access for families who work outside of the structured 9-5 range, and acknowledges that it is typically women that are coping with the responsibility of providing or finding childcare. Lowering the cost of fees to access childcare and opening up spots is necessary – but this monetary decision must also consider the cost of paying the additional educators necessary to maintain age-specific ratios (and their benefits), full fee collection, the materials required to support those new spots, as well as physical spaces of current childcare centres and maximum group size. Some programs may have a delicate financial balance due to our lack of national support, and changes to current programs may need to be gradual. An additional element to consider is that lowering cost to families in order to increase access to childcare means reducing the initial cost of fees, rather than reimbursing through tax-credits. In addition, I do appreciate the investment in after-school programs for children under the age of 10, but I am not sure if I completely agree with this specific method of offering childcare, mostly because I am unfamiliar with these options due to their common exemption from the CCEYA.
To be honest, I do love what I see about providing professional development opportunities for educators, but I do not love the idea of lowering the cost of tuition for this specific degree program. To my knowledge, we actually have more of an issue with knowledgable, passionate educators leaving the sector, due to inadequate working conditions and compensation, rather than a need to recruit more educators. What I would prefer to see would be a subsidizing tuition cost for educators who currently hold their ECE registration to advance their practice and be able to move into leadership roles through obtaining undergraduate or graduate degrees. There should be more early years educators who are supported in receiving graduate level education so that they can bring their expertise to administrative and policy-level roles. I do love what I see regarding a national secretariat establishing the ground work for a national child-care system working closely with the Expert Panel on Early Learning and Care – but I remain skeptical that this will ensure we actually receive a national system.
The NDP have so far released a vague but accurate statement regarding how they would support the ECEC sector, including the total amount of money they would dedicate to the field, but without specifics of where this money would be going. What they are saying sounds cool, but I really have no idea about who will be getting the money and how it will help children and families access childcare specifically, or how it will support educators.
So far the parties have failed to address how these decisions will affect the variations in auspice (for-profit or non-profit centres), regulation of programs (unregulated/regulated, licensing, and accreditation), the representation of wider diversity amongst families seeking childcare including cultural, linguistic, and inclusion supports, and consolidation of services such that education and childcare are both considered national priorities while still retaining the early years’ nurturing, empowering, family-oriented, relationships-based pedagogy.
In summary, the Liberals’ promises and ideals are very good in terms of moving Canada towards an evidence-based approach to childcare that is more in-line with our industrialization and progress. Even amidst my criticism I am very pleased to be reading about a more socialist approach to an issue that is at the core of our inequality and imbalance of family-oriented policies. It is time to do better.