Harper's Universal Child Care Benefit not effective, just a cynical attempt to buy votes

There has been a healthy dose of suspicion around the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) – the Conservative government's latest attempt at buying votes. Many have criticized the timing, execution, and eligibility with good cause. However, one of the more substantial issues is that of public policy.

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What’s the goal of the UCCB? If it’s to help parents find and afford quality child care, it’s a solid policy fail. Many parents are left in a serious child care bind with regulated spaces available for only 22.5 per cent of children 0-5.

And then there’s the question of affordability. In 2012, the Canada-wide median monthly fee was \$761 for infant care – skyrocketing to a whopping \$1,152 in Ontario. In Toronto, it’s even higher at \$1,676/month.

So, how will the UCCB help with child care costs in Ontario? If you can actually find a regulated space, the \$160/month UCCB for children under the age of sixteen will cover just 14% of the median cost of an infant space. That’s without counting the taxes on the UCCB.

Public policy is about choices. If you took the combined costs of the enhanced UCCB and the equally ill-considered income splitting policy, you could actually cover a \$7/day child care program in all provinces outside Quebec (which has an existing, equivalently priced program).

The Conservatives say #YourKidsYourWay. Well, “Our kids, Our way” involves a universal, affordable and quality child care system.

Contribution to What’s Left by Sarah Ryan

More: The NDP’s Child Care plan

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