The CDCAA has suggested that those parents who can afford it should contribute no more than 15% of the cost of child care services they use.
Adding it all up, the additional revenues or cost savings could total as much as $1.4 billion. That means the net cost of this particular option would be about $3 billion a year.
It doesn't seem much when set against the amounts the government spends on other programs. Tax breaks to investors, for instance, including the tax deduction the government gives for contributions to pension plans and RRSPs (for which women and low income earners derive very little benefit), cost the federal government more than $7 billion a year. Defense spending was $8 billion a year in 1983-84 and will rise to $10 billion a year by 1986-87.
There is no doubt that Canada could afford a universal, publicly-funded child care system, if policy-makers decided to make it a priority.
The Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association has made recommendations about how a national system could be phased in over a ten-year period, starting this year. They involve a national child care financing Act, through which the federal government would make grants to the provinces to help them establish the child care facilities they need, and to share the operating costs of the child care system as it is implemented.
A universal child care system must be combined with other programs, to support families, such as fully-paid parental leave; special paid leave for parents when their children (or the people who usually look after their children) are ill; special arrangements for the care of children whose parents are engaged in shift work; services to children with special needs, and services to children whose parents care for them at home.
Officially, Canadian society has made a commitment to the full and equal integration of women into our national economic life. The time is long past when we can hope to stem the tide of social change by refusing to provide the child care services families need. Almost 57% of all mothers with pre-school children are now in the work force, usually in full-time jobs.
Child care is a service that the majority of pre-school children need. Failure to meet that need could well mean serious longterm consequences for Canadian society and that is a cost Canada cannot afford.