Dear Canada, I’m a Bit Mad At You

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Mark Going to School, Ottawa, November 2014

Mark Going to School, Ottawa, November 2014

Dear Canada, I’m a bit mad at you. Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe it’s just a misunderstanding. Either way, I wanted to let you know.

The race for the 2015 federal election has started. Last week, Harper’s government revisited the child benefits package in a campaign-style event. Yes, it’s time to fish for a large group of potential supporters—the proverbial 2.4 children families.

So, here is the big news: the government boosted the universal child care benefit to $160 a month per child up to age six (from the current $100 per month) and is introducing a credit of $60 per month for children aged six to 17 years. The new benefits go into effect on January 1, 2015, and the first payments will start in July.

That means every Canadian family with children under 18 is set to receive the retroactive payment of $420 per child just three months ahead of the next election, plus regular $60 monthly cheques as the campaign nears.

Free money, yay! Isn’t it great?

Yeah, right.

This is wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. Okay, maybe with the fact that Canada, a great place to live in, a developed country leading in many areas, lags shockingly behind in terms of affordable childcare. Excepted in Quebec where subsidized daycare centres exist (if you can find a spot), childcare costs are among the highest in the world. Canada does not have a national childcare system. Daily fees start around $40-$60 per day and per child, even more in large cities. Spaces in licensed daycare centres are hard to secure and for-profit centres are growing at an alarming rate.

So instead of subsidizing early learning and care, Harper hands out a monthly direct payment to parents.

Take our example. There is a reason why Mark only started daycare at two years old. For our household, the child benefit package is currently $204.95 per month. Daycare is a monthly $1,400 cheque. Harper’s money basically barely covers a couple of nights of babysitting.

It’s a bit like leaving a five-dollar tip on a 200-dollar bill at the restaurant, isn’t it?

It’s insulting.

So why are the Conservatives stalling the implementation of a proper daycare system? Because it’s easier to play the guilt card: it’s not right when “parents are forced to have other people raise their children”.

Someone, please, explain the Conservatives that daycare services are not a fucking alien abduction.

I need affordable daycare, not a guilt trip.

Look, I didn’t mind the fact hospitals kick you out with a newborn just 24 hours after birth. I welcomed the phone call I received two days later, asking me if everything was alright, even though I was too tired then to follow the conversation.

I did mind the fact that after that, I was left all alone.

Look, I got it. I’m a parent, Mark is our responsibility.

Still, I would have loved some help, and there wasn’t much available.

As babies grow into toddlers and then preschoolers, they need more and more activities and more and more social interaction. They don’t just nap and sit around. As I discovered, a mother’s love isn’t enough. They want to play, go out, see new places, try new toys, learn stuff.

Without outside help, parents have to be more than parents—they have to be childhood educators. This is a bit like asking a Mini owner to be a Formula 1 race driver.

I didn’t know that. I learned.

It’s hard to take care of a kid all day long, days after days, weeks after weeks, without a break. This is a full time job. You need places to go to, thing to do.

Look, maybe I didn’t do it right. I’m not the most social person, and maybe I didn’t look hard enough for playgroups, kid activities and all. Plus I was working while caring for Mark at home. But I tried.

The reality is, we live in a country where:

  • Everything is very spread out and distances are huge, so you need access to a car to get around. Not everyone has a car or a license, not every household has two cars and the public transportation system is limited. So doing activity A for an hour, than going to B for another hour may not be easy or practical.
  • Winter is brutal, and it’s not fun or reasonable to be playing outside for three to five months per year. My life became way more difficult when it go too cold to strap Mark in the stroller and head out for a walk or to the park.
  • Few people have close family around to help out. It’s a given for us, immigrants—unless you bring the grand-parents, you’re on your own. And even born-and-raised Canadians don’t necessarily live close to their families.

In light of these facts, offering affordable daycare just makes sense. I understand that there are parents who would rather opt out and stay home with the kid(s). This is fine. It’s all about having a choice. Not every household can live on a single salary, and not every mother (or father!) want to stop working to care for the kids at home. I know I didn’t. I love Mark, I love being a mother, but I also enjoy having a job and a life.

Early childhood education matters and it does take a village to raise a child. At daycare, Mark learns to share, to wait, to respect and to appreciate other people than immediate family members. He has access to tons of educational toys. He does activities I would never organize at home (what parent wants to clean up glitter paint??). He has somewhere to go during the day, somewhere way more fun than pacing the mall with mom.

I’m not giving up as a parent, I’m not letting strangers raise my kid. I’m giving Mark the opportunity to learn to live in society, to acquire life skills.

And I wish our country would make these kinds of opportunities easier and cheaper.

There is hope, though. Apparently the New Democrats announced a $15-a-day child-care plan earlier this month as part of an ambitious plan to create or maintain a million affordable daycare spaces across the country.

Well, I guess I know who I will be voting for…

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

22 Comments

  1. Ok c’est un méga gros raccourci qui ne rend pas justice à ton article, mais je pense toujours que les conservateurs ne favorisent pas une vraie politique familiale parce que : si les garderies et autres modes de garde sont si chers, les parents ne peuvent pas se permettre d’aller bosser tous les 2. Bah oui, ça coûte moins cher de rester avec son enfant à la maison au lieu de le mettre à la garderie… Dans ces cas là, qui reste à la maison ? La maman bien sûr… parce que dans notre société, c’est souvent elle qui a un poste avec moins de responsabilité et un salaire moins élevé. Quand un couple doit vivre sur un seul salaire, la question est malheureusement vite posée…
    Les conservateurs, anti-femmes, par des moyens détournés ? Perso je ne vois qu’un pas.
    Il serait intéressant que le Canada se pose les bonnes questions aussi, d’un point de vue démographique et sociologique, sur le renouvellement de sa population : l’immigration, c’est bien, mais il faut aussi songer à ce pourquoi les Canadiens ne font pas “assez” d’enfants !!
    Enfin bon, j’écris sans doute un paquet de conneries au fil de la pensée mais bon… 🙁 Bon courage

    • C’est trop gentil.
      J’ai le sentiment qu’il y a une branche de conservateurs qui sont très proches des débiles que l’on voit aux États-Unis, mais qui, contrairement à leurs cousins du sud, n’ont pas l’oreille de la presse. L’existence de mouvements anti-avortement n’est probablement que la pointe de l’iceberg.
      Fort heureusement, la population canadienne n’est dans sa majorité pas très réceptive aux extrémismes religieux. Pourvu que ça dure.
      Par exemple, je ne suis pas pleinement convaincu que Harper ne soit pas en faveur d’une interdiction de l’avortement, mais vu que ça le pénaliserait sur le plan politique de le reconnaître, il prétend ignorer la question. Rappelons-nous qu’on a eu un sinistre de l’industrie (et de la recherche ?) sous un des gouvernements Harper qui a émis des doutes sur la validité de la théorie de l’évolution (ses commentaires laissant entendre que le crétintionnisme avait une validité scientifique), ce qui est particulièrement grave.

      • Ah non, mais on est d’accord, ce gouvernement est une cata. Le truc c’est qu’avec la division fédéral/provinciale/municipale assez marquée, on a tendance à oublier ou à ne pas voir tout de suite les effets politiques des décisions d’Ottawa.

    • Nan, mais c’est pas un raccourci mais la vérité. Je suis complètement d’accord avec ton analyse et je crois que le manque de solutions de garde joue un grand rôle dans le faible taux de natalité.

  2. The role of a woman is to bear childREN (note the plural form) and take care of the household, under the absolute authority of her husband. That’s it, the conservative way. So, no need for daycare, I don’t see why you complain.

    My favorite slogan (in French) for an election :
    « Votez Con,
    Votez Conservateur ! »

    By the way, even if the stroller is in a closet, you still can strap Mark inside. And keep the stroller in the closet for an afternoon. An inexpensive and efficient alternative to daycare. Yes, I love children.

  3. Great post – you are dead right you don’t need a guilt trip! I have worked in child care centres for years and I have never seen any reason for parents to feel guilty!!

  4. Love this blog post !! I think this is an important issue ! Although yes extra money is awesome, but it all go in daycare (p.s.= yes i don’t use daycare right now but seeing how much it cost gives me heart palpitations). Affordable daycare would be great and much more useful !

  5. I will be the Devil’s advocate.

    Most of the countries in Europe have much better help/subsidies for parents than what we have in Ontario or Canada. It looks great from far away. As a father of a 3 month baby I would definitely enjoy paying $7 per day for day care once my child reaches that age.

    But for our governments to provide that level of help – they need to come up with the money. It has to come from somewhere. Ideally it would be from stopping the useless and excessive public spending. We all know that is unlikely to happen.

    The other options are to hike taxes: corp tax, personal income tax, fuel tax, sales tax, whatever tax, etc

    This isn’t very popular with the voters. And to be frank – with me.

    If we look at France, their taxes are WAY higher than what we have in Ontario. However they have nice subsidies and monetary incentives for parents.

    Social benefits are the process of taking money from one group (people with more money) and give them to another group (people with less money or people from a certain social status, like parents of young children).

    In other words in order to have better child care benefits we all have to pay more tax.

    Ultimately the government decides how much tax they want to take from the people (and people are the ones that elect them).

    As you mentioned in the article, if you don’t like the policies of this government – vote for somebody that will make the changes that you like.

    But don’t forget – they are all politicians 🙂

    Love your blog.

    • I love it when someone volunteer to be the devil’s advocate, so thank you for that!

      Full disclosure, I’m a socialist and I disliked Harper’s politics before even the daycare issue 😆

      That said, even as a socialist, I do think taxes are too high in France, and frankly I think there is way too much social assistance. I guess that makes me a weird socialist to say this…! I just think it’s ridiculous that people get a cheque from the government just because they have kids, because they are renting, because they are training for a new job, because they are under or above whatever age, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably take the money if I needed it. But overall, I don’t think it’s right.

      That said, I value government-subsidized “programs” or services that benefit almost everyone, such as a national (or provincial) healthcare system, an education system, and yes, a daycare system. Basically, instead of giving little money to a bunch of people, use it to create a useful system. I don’t mind paying a fee, I don’t expect daycare (in my example) to be free. But I find it outrageous that daycare is almost en entire monthly paycheck for those who work minimum wage. Not including economic opportunities lost because so many women (or men!) stop working to stay home with the kid. It’s a great option if it’s a lifestyle choice, not when it’s an economic necessity.

      There is no quick fix, but I think giving parents a bigger benefit package like this, i.e. a monthly cheque, is a mistake. This money could be better spent.

      • I’d really like to have an explanation about taxes, here. When I worked in France, I’ve never paid more than 1¼ month in taxes, where I pay, in Alberta, which is not known for its socialist spirit, 2½ monthes in taxes. And even if I earn more money than in France, it is not 2 times more.
        Not that I complain about taxes, but I have trouble when people say that there is too much taxes in France.

        • Mmm… I have never really worked in France (except temp jobs as a student), so I don’t know the tax rate. Weird. Sometime, this is the way stereotypes last: no one bother check the facts!

  6. I’m in full agreement. I think it’s almost embarrassing for Canada not to have affordable daycare available. Even if spots were limited, or only offered to low income families, it would be a start.

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