The effect of the report from B.C.’s Task Force on Child Care will be to erode the autonomy of families by urging the adoption of a non-parental child care system, says task force member Kathleen Higgins.
Mrs. Higgins, a founding member of Westcoast Women for Family Life, refused to sign the report and instead drafted a minority report, which was endorsed by fellow member Mayor Charles Lasser of Chetwynd.
“Child care is not a government obligation,” Mayor Lasser told The B.C. Catholic. “It is the parents’ responsibility.”
Mrs. Higgins agreed, claiming that parental care should be a viable option for B.C. families.
The report claims to be helping families, she said, but it ignores the thousands who prefer to parent in their own home.
“With our present tax laws, many of them cannot afford to do so,” she said.
Mrs. Higgins practiced as a lawyer until her first child was born. She has repeatedly urged reform of taxation policies, which at present discriminate in favor of parents who put their children in daycare.
Also frustrated with what she calls the narrow focus of the B.C. Task Force is Vivien Frost-Rogers of Kids First, a national organization which lobbies the federal government to end tax discrimination against one-income families.
In 1989 Kids First launched a tax challenge involving two one-income families in which the spouse working outside the home contracted with the other spouse for full-time child care and claimed child care expenses. The cases will go to the Tax Court of Canada later this year (see “Kids First – Calgary,” by Michael Otis, The Interim, February 1990).
Both Mayor Lasser and Mrs. Higgins recommend that a B.C. child tax credit be given to families so that they can choose their own form of childcare.
“B.C. has the most restrictive child care laws in the country,” said Mrs. Higgins. “Anyone who cares for more than two children (not her own) must be licensed and monitored by a licensing officer. Grandmothers and other relatives would be a natural choice, but they don’t qualify for care subsides if they live in the same home as the mother and child.”
“Several countries are now re-thinking institutionalized daycare,” Mrs. Frost-Rogers said.
She praised the Task Force recommendation that the Guaranteed Income policy be changed to give single parents with dependent children a choice regarding outside employment.
“I just wish that the government would recognize the needs of single-income families who make financial sacrifices to raise their children at home,” she said.
More help for daycare
The report recommends “a significant increase in the existing daycare subsidy rates to more accurately reflect the cost of care.” It also recommends that the government help with the capital and administrative costs of daycare and with the cost of training daycare workers.
“This extra funding will mean higher taxes and less help for needy families, making it even harder for parents to provide full-time care,” said Mrs. Higgins.
“Society gives us the message that full-time mothers do not contribute,” she added. “Families who give full-time parental care pay taxes at a higher rate than two-income families with the same income and they get less than half the RRSP allowance.”
“No matter how much they make, a two-income family can claim $4,000 per child for daycare costs and $2,000 per child between the ages of six and 12,” she said. “Families with full-time mothers can claim only $200 for children up to six and it gets less as the family income rises above $24,500.”
“And if this report is adopted, families who want to care for their own children will be penalized even further,” she warned.
Assistance should be based on financial need, she said. It should not depend on where the children are cared for or where the parents work.
Westcoast Women for Family Life proposes a refundable credit on a sliding scale based on total family income.
Mrs. Higgins has asked the government for a hearing on her Minority Report, but so far she has had no response.
Source: B.C. Catholic, April 7, 1991.