Saturday, May 21, 2011

More on Universal Daycare

This topic highly interests me so I have been spending ages looking for more information on the Liberal plan to have a Universal Daycare Program across Canada. I am coming up blank on some very important issues. Has anyone else found anything concrete or just 'numbers'?? I can find all sorts of mentions of various totals the program was supposed to have (anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion) but even then, I cannot find for sure if that was supposed to be yearly, over 5 years, or what.

But here are other things that concern me and I have yet to find any sort of answer for:

1 - Wages. If the vast majority of income for daycare centers will come from the government, who then determines the staff's wages? Staff that are casual, part-time, full-time; staff that are level one, level two, or level three educated; staff that are long term 5 10 15 20 years in the same center; staff that are new hires or working there less than 5 years; and so on. If a daycare can only charge $7 a day per space, that does not leave much room (if any) for control over how they pay their own staff. In my center, it would take about 15 spaces to make up ONE staff member's wage and we only have 21 spaces. Hmmm... not much elbow room. So should the government determine my wage? Will it increase? Decrease? Stay the same? If it stays the same - for how long? I have been at my center since 1995 - will they take that into account, or just pay us all the same? What about differing standards of living in each town, city, and rural area? Staff in Calgary make considerably more per hour than in my town because the costs are higher. Who in the wide wide world of sports is going to sit around and figure all of this out? I have yet to see any mention of it anywhere.

Note: Quebec has centers in this style but I do not wish to check out their funding because the province receives a healthy portion from the rest of us in Canada in order to be able to do what they do now, so it's moot point. If it goes across Canada eventually, those funds will be stretched thinner.

2 - Extra Activities. What amount of funding will go to each center to determine the amount of activites each place does? Will they all have to be stream-lined and offer the same? For example, we have offered Sign Language programs and field trips. Other centers have offered Music Appreciation and brought in puppeteers or story tellers. Some have toy and book lending libraries. Some have parents do volunteer work to lower their fees. Each place is unique and parents can shop around to find out what they like and how much they are willing to pay. But if the bulk of funds is coming from the government, will those differences and choices be removed?

3 - Education levels. I mentioned above that there are different education levels that affect pay rate, but there are also differences from province to province over what amount of education is required for daycare staff. When I lived in BC, I could not work in the local daycare despite 6 years of experience because I did not have my first year of ECD certificate. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, I could work there without the first year certificate, as long as I had completed a smaller course that is even offered for free at the colleges. So basically, in BC at least, all staff required an ECD certificate but in other provinces they do not.... will that remain the same or will everyone have to become the same and provinces no longer be in control. After all, if the bulk of the cash is coming from the Feds, what 'say' would each province have?

4 - Is $7 a day fair to those who only earn low incomes? That works out to about $140 a month for 20 days of care.... but that is almost $50 a month MORE than what current low income parents pay at my center who are subsidized. Will there be subsidy for those individuals again, or will they have to pay the same amount as someone who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars per year? Is that actually 'fair'? Fair to whom? The middle class would see a great change in their monthly finances that's for sure - it appears it would benefit them the most. However - will the costs show up elsewhere instead? Higher income taxes or taxes and prices on other goods and services? Will they REALLY save what they think they are going to save? Who has the answer for this? And then you have to picture the low income families again who may end up paying MORE in some regions than they do right now, and then also have to struggle with increased costs elsewhere in their lives. That doesn't exactly sound exciting.

5 - Food. Will the government take into account what the children are fed and how much it costs? Snacks and lunches are provided - but each region has different food costs and get their food from different places. Some make it on site, some have it catered. Will this change? What if one center currently charges a higher fee than mine does because the food is catered while we make it by hand... will they receive more funding than us each month? Is that fair? Who will determine this?

6 - Misc Costs. Utilities and operating costs will differ from region to region. How will funding for that work? Will each center have to hand in all of their receipts each month such as phone, utilities, internet, book keeping, lease or rent cost, etc and receive it back the next month in funding? Who will handle this? My boss does her books by hand each month and then employs an accountant once a year for the final income tax stuff while others hire book keepers each and every month to deal with bills, payroll, etc. Will they receive more funding than us? Is that fair? My center is actually in a home that my boss lives in, so who will decide how much of her combined utility bill pertains to running the center? Who decides all of this? Will the government (aka the taxpayers) be footing the bill for a center's accountant??? Seriously - how is this all going to work?? Does anyone have an actual answer?

7 - Late payments. Over the past 15 years, the govt has been notoriously late putting in the funding that we DO get (subsidies, staff wage enhancement, etc) and we have to work around that. What if the entire business's funding is coming from the govt aside from a piddly daily fee for the parents, and it is LATE? How will staff be paid, bills be paid, doors stay open, if this continues to be a regular occurrence? My boss made a phone call a few years ago after a disasterously late govt funding payment and was told that as the business owner, she should have something else set up for 'such occasions'. That was back in the day when less than half of the funding came from the govt via subsidized parents.... what exactly do they expect a business owner to 'have in place' when 90% of the funding is received that way? A second job? To cover for GOVT mishandling?? For many thousands of centers across the entire country? Are you kidding me? I would say that maybe 4 times a year, the funding goes in 'on time' right now. Are we ready for this to get scarier?

8 - Choice. I have been told, while questioning this idea in the past, that centers would have a choice whether to be part of the $7-a-day daycare program or not,,, they could remain completely private and separate if they wish, like in Quebec. Okay - so that would mean we would only be catering to the well-off families who are willing to pay $650+ a month instead of $140 a month, and give up our goal of trying to help local parents who are lower and middle income. We have the second lowest monthly fee in the city and yet have the lowest staff turnover by far. We have looked after entire families of 7 children, one after the other, and they come back to see us when they are grown and are now starting to come with THEIR own children. Makes me feel old lol, but it's also wonderful. So we would have to kiss that goodbye if we decided not to buy into this 'universal daycare' program nonsense. I doubt we would even go private, what would happen is we would close our doors and I am willing to bet money that we would not be the only ones by far. Once the newness wears off and people see what is really going on and directors see how they have lost control of their businesses, we will see doors closing or becoming private faster than you can blink, or treasured staff dropping out. Mark my words.

Okay so why am I ranting about this again when the Liberals suffered an historic defeat this month? Because the topic is not going to go away. The Conservatives have a majority right now but we cannot predict what is going to happen in the future. I received several emails at work before the election, from places like the Canadian Child Care Federation, willing staff to 'vote for Child Care' in the election. Those emails will keep coming every cycle and the topic will not just disappear. I would like the answers to each and every one of my questions answered by those who support the idea, those who hold office and tout the program. I do not want wishy-washy numbers thrown at me, I want to see their actual PLAN in detail. Why dont others who support this??? Have they even thought about any of the 8 points I listed above? Or do they think it's going to be a magical transition and all work out peachy?

PS - will this also be directed toward day HOMES? They have to be licensed in Alberta and other provinces, so would they be part of this $7/day thing as well? Or would they be forced out and lose their dayhomes to larger centers that have more than 6 children in them? If they are regulated and licensed much the same as any daycare center, would they not be part of this as well? That's another huge cost to tax payers to take into account.


  1. Basically the Liberal plan was modeled on the healthcare system where the feds would offer up the money and basic standards, while since daycare/education is a provincial jurisdiction, the provinces would start their own programs and administer it.

    Cause we all know how well the healthcare system works...

  2. William in Ajax said...

    Hate to burst your bubble but, all of your concerns arrise from government intervention in providing daycare.

    Private daycare is the answer...
    Government should only be involved in setting basic standards for the delivery of child care, let the free market determine wages and such...

    "Universal Daycare" as pushed by Liberals and the NDP has nothing to do with helping parents raise children, and everything to do with organizing a union membership drive.

    Ask Olivia Chow if Daycare legislation will include parental protection with "essential service" designation and NO lockouts by employers or strkes by staff, and you will quickly find out just how much the children matter in this disguised union membership drive.

    Universal daycare will end up as just another $billion$ dollar government department, with mandarins making outragous salaries and perks and the workers will strike every other year until they make more than the parents who use the service.

    Say NO to universal daycare, say yes to targeted daycare for the truly needy!

  3. Hate to burst MY bubble William? I'm not sure I understand because I absolutely completely do NOT want a universal daycare program and put my questions forward because in past comments on my blog topics about this issue, others have come in to tout the system without giving a single shred of information on how it's actually going to work. So I thought that this time I would ask specific questions and see if anyone who SUPPORTS the system can actually answer them.

    So no worries - I completely agree with you and do not want such a system. The one we have right now is bad enough with more and more intervention all the time that has already caused some centers and dayhomes in my city to close and more will follow. If it becomes a universal program, I shudder to think what could happen.

  4. You make a good point about cost. (I think I still support universal daycare, but these are problems to work through, to be sure.)

    I've noticed an almost total disconnect in public politics when it comes to taxes on the one hand and costs on the other. When we talk about tax cuts, nobody mentions which services will be cut to cover the shortfall. When we talk about service increases, nobody mentions which taxes will be raised to cover the increase. It's bizarre that we're collectively unable to grasp there might be a relationship there.

  5. Sixth Estate. I appreciate your comment but would like to add that to me, it is more than being about the cost. Already in this country, there are a zillion programs that require tax money to run (taxes from municipal, provincial, or federal levels - or all three combined). Welfare, and and all subsidies (be it for health care, education, food, shelter, etc), road works, education, all public servants working for various groups, organiziations, committees, offices, phone lines etc etc that are govt run, military, healthcare, etc etc. The list is totally endless - and then keep in mind that everything to do with each of those groups/organizations/programs is paid almost entirely with tax dollars (buildings lease/rent, utilities, cleaning crew, supplies, cafeteria staff, etc etc etc). It's enormous when you really set your mind to it - and yet another program could be added to that list one day.

    Just how much should canadians have to pay in various taxes in order to keep this stuff going? Big Business keeps getting attacked for daring to raise such high profits - but without them hiring all of those people, selling so many goods, building new businesses with their profits, and so on - the country would not be able to survive because there would be a huge loss in taxes. But as more programs get added, more groups apply for funding, more people apply for benefits, etc - there is no real choice other than to keep increasing cost and taxes on the individuals. When will it end? Will my kids grow up and pay 50% income taxes across the board even in low to middle income jobs? How much will THEY have to pay from their own earnings each month in order to keep up these programs? It is truly shocking to sit and think about how much money is needed to run all of this stuff.

  6. Daycare = of course it would be nice to have something cheaper. My fees are up to 40% of my monthly allowance so believe me, I understand. I have 3 children and have struggled with this - but when something seems 'Too Good To Be True', it usually is. Seven bucks a day for daycare!! Wow. that sounds fantastic. Even minimum wage workers would only have to pay one hour of their daily wages to cover their child's daycare expense. That sounds awesome! But is it? What kind of domino effect could occur from this? Already my center receives about $7000 a month of it's total possible income of $13500 from govt subsidies for the low income parents. With a universal system we would be getting over $10,000 a month for the childcare spaces and we are the second cheapest in this city.

    One center I know of charges $700 a month and there are 200 spaces. With the universal system, parents would be paying $28000 in, but the govt would be handing over $112,000 a month. That is just 2 centers in one little prairie city. Imagine the cost for the larger city centers where the fees are over a grand a month. That is a pretty hefty amount of money to funnel into the program each month across the country, forcing those who have already spent years paying their own way, or sacrificing an income to stay home with their children, or those who do not even have any children - to pay for other's choices.

    Then the domino effect comes to my mind again... for years people have been talking about unionizing daycare workers. This could inevitably mean we would join the ranks of those who's jobs are primarily funded by tax dollars to strike, argue contracts for higher pay and benefits, and all the while the taxpayers will foot the bill for all of it.

    I would love to make more money at my job. I make less than $12 per hour despite being in this job for over 15 years. However, I have always known from day one that making more money means charging the parents more and I appreciate trying to ride a fine line - keeping the fee low enough that people can try to afford it, but high enough that I can survive. I knew going into this job that it was not a money-maker, but what if I end up getting paid a lot more per hour - YOU will be paying for that, along with everyone else, and it will just keep increasing over time. As food, housing, utilities, wages, etc keep increasing in price, the program funding amount will increase as well and I do not see how that will not effect tax payers who are already strapped.

    It is reported that middle income families in Canada already pay over 45% of their monthly income in various forms of taxes when you break everything down. Every product we buy has more than just GST or provincial sales tax on it - the item itself has tax amounts added in from the manufacturer, transportation company, store selling it, and so on. We are paying for ALL of that along with the more obvious taxes like income tax. It will only keep increasing as we add more and more programs and the cost of running them continues to rise. Do we really think that is a responsible way to run this country?



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