While the recently-released parliamentary committee report on child care has not satisfied those lobbying for completely institutionalized and government-subsidized day-care, it is viewed as a welcome beginning by REAL women of Canada president, Lynne Scime.

The report acknowledges that it is the parent’s right and privilege to choose the kind of child care best suited to the individual needs of the child and the family. “Canadians told us that they want their government to help them, not to tell them what to do,” said Shirley Martin, chairman of the Special Committee on Child Care.” They want us to provide assistance for families, not make choices for them” she added.

This philosophy appears to be the view of the Conservative members of committee only since both the NDP (Margaret Mitchell) and Liberal (Lucie Pepin) members of the committee wrote dissenting and separate minority opinions.

The most important recommendation made by the committee, from a pro-family perspective, is the proposal to introduce Refundable Child Care Tax Credit, to be available to all families with preschool children, even when one parent stays home to raise a family.

Helping families

“For too long government has failed to recognize the sacrifices made by families that choose to have on parent remain at home,” Mrs. Martin said. “The refundable credit will not solve all the financial problems of families with young children but it will provide a substantial increase in tax relief. It demonstrates their committee’s belief that the government must support the efforts of all families in providing care for their young children.”

REAL Women are pleased that the government has recognized the needs of families with a full-time homemaker but Mrs. Scime points out the proposed credit ($200 for the first child, $1000 for the second and $50 for each additional child) falls far short of the 30 per cent child care expense credit (with a limit to claims of $3,000) proposed for families who pay for child care. Such inequity is discrimination, Mrs. Scime says. She is disappointed that the principle of supporting home care is not given an equitable economic base with the tax breaks given to double-income families.

Maternity benefits are to be scrapped and replaced with parental benefits (available to either parent, at the mother’s discretion). The benefit period will be increased from 15 to 6 weeks on a gradual basis over the next five years. Such a proposal creates “Challenges’ for small business the committee acknowledges but it says it is needed since 60 per cent of mothers with small children are in the labour force.” The recommendation is therefore needed to give parents more time with their infants and to benefit society in the long term,’’ the report states.

In all, there are 39 recommendations in the committee report ranging from developing work-related child care arrangements with business and labour groups to upgrading training given to child care workers, and improving services for disabled and school-age children. There are recommendations on how costs are to be shared between the federal and provincial governments, and for capital cost allowances for business providing work-place child care.

The CBC is to be asked to give priority to programmes developing “parenting skills and healthy family life” in conjunction with the National Film Board and private production companies. Health and Welfare will be asked to provide training for community health representatives “to assist them in identifying family and child care needs and in establishing family support programmes designed to prevent family break-up and promote healthy child development.”

No overall study

An estimated $700 million will be provided by the federal government in the first year of this programme. A new secretariat will be set up to monitor implementation of these recommendations and develop new initiatives. Four million annually will be put into a Research Fund “to reach into the issue of a child care in Canada so that an accurate assessment of the need, alternatives, etc., can be obtained.”

Incredibly, there has not been an overall study of child care needs in Canada. Although, in the last seventeen years, there have been 9 different government report examining the issue, they focused on non-parental are, support for working women and care for children with special needs. The 1986 Cooke repot reviewed only non-parental care and parental leave, etc.

Needs of the child

This latest report has already been widely criticized for not opting for government-subsidized day care centres. Critics say that no new day care spaces will be created, this is not strictly true. Although the report does not recommend direct government involvement in creating day care spaces, the proposed capital cost allowances are an incentive for employers to establish work-place child care arrangements.

REAL Women’s Lynne Scime believes that government subsidized day care is only a band-aid solution to the economic problems facing families. “If more families had a genuine economic choice, many more parents would opt for full-time home care by the mother,” she says.

Mrs. Scime thinks that government, employers and unions should be working together to enable families to survive on one income. “That is,” she says, “a forty-hour work-week, instead of the eighty-hour week that is becoming necessary.”

“Government realizes that institutionalizing children is not good for children,” says Mrs. Scime. “In any discussion on day care, the needs of the child are foremost.”