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Conversely, if you do solve the health crisis and get the systems we had as of March 11 back up to speed, then you can evaluate their failings. The throne speech scolds that “it has been nearly 50 years since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women outlined the necessity of childcare services for women’s social and economic equality.” The commission reported Dec. 7, 1970. Between that day and this the Liberals have run the federal government for fully 11,037 days, which, dividing by 365, works out to 30.238 years. Which is a lot of years.
The political conclusion from 30 years of not fulfilling their daycare promises is that the Liberals are hypocrites. Who could disagree? But they are also — typically — astute political operators. If in 30 years of governing they have not already brought us a “Canada-wide early learning and childcare system,” I suspect it’s because the country has not wanted it. Important groups clearly do want it: unions, government-monopoly ideologues and, yes, many parents. But provincial premiers insist, probably correctly, that daycare and early education are their jurisdiction, while many parents want to choose their own form of childcare so prefer tax credits to a federal system of care. And many social observers note that unionized monopolies are unreliable suppliers of services, while the canonical Quebec model of $5 (or $7.50 or $10) a day daycare constitutes a major transfer of resources to the middle and upper-middle class. The current Trudeau government is nothing if not devoted to the middle class but it also claims to be dedicated to reducing inequality. Providing free or next-to-free services to professional couples seems a strange way of doing that.
There’s clearly a crisis in daycare. The strained faces of the parents we see in the park every day attest to that. But at the moment there’s a crisis in everything that involves people working cheek by jowl. Once we get over that crisis, it will be time to start thinking about what sorts of daycare arrangements might be better in the long run. Given how long this issue has been around, it won’t be surprising if we decide a new federal system is not required.