The Green Party offers real choices for quality care for children.
My mother came to Canada from Brazil as a widowed immigrant with two young children. She needed a safe place to put her children while she went out to work to provide the future for them that she had come to Canada for. She was fortunate enough to find spaces at a local daycare affiliated with the Ukrainian church we attended. Later, my grandmother also followed from Brazil. My babunha was an author who worked from home, and so was able to look after us before and after school, as well as during lunch breaks.
When my first daughter was born, somewhat to my own surprise, I found myself putting off childcare because I wanted to enjoy every moment of her young life – every gurgle, every squeal of delight. Then came two older adopted children who absolutely needed a firm hand at home, followed by another little cherub who we all raised together. Finally, we adopted my baby from Korea. Once again I was home washing cloth diapers and enjoying every new step, every new word, every discovery.
I consider myself extremely fortunate that throughout this time, I could afford the luxury of foregoing a second income. Through all those years, the tax deduction that my husband received for supporting me was lower than the deduction he would have received had he divorced me, gotten full custody and hired me as a babysitter. While government support for daycare was less than adequate, it was virtually non-existent for parents who gave up an income for their children.
It was only in the summer or 2009, when I was going out to meet people throughout Toronto-Danforth, that I really needed a safe place to entrust my energetic baby boy, now 7 years old. And I really was very fortunate, because in the middle of the strike when so many programmes were shut down, I had already registered my son in a wonderful local day camp that he loved. After his first day, he couldn’t believe that he was going to get to go again.
For my mother, even if staying home with us had been a choice for immigrants, she would have rejected it. She wanted the security of a steady income, and was anxious to save for the future she dreamed of for us. She wanted to provide us with an education, a home of our own, vacations on the beach, piano lessons and summer camps.
For me, there were many years when what I really wanted was to stay home with my kids.
The Green Party is all about choice — but not the choice of an inadequate pittance that Stephen Harper offers, which is so meagre that it effectively punishes parents no matter what they choose. In the end, it is the children who suffer with inadequate funding for families to help them get a good start in life.
In the long term, the solution is a Guaranteed Annual Income that takes children into account. With a guaranteed income, parents can be secure in knowing that the basics will be provided. Parents can stay home with children as long as they need or want to, or they can work full or part time, work from home or share employment to add on to the basic income. Child care should be more than covered by employment income. As parents earn more, the guaranteed income will be slowly taxed back.
The immediate need is for a national daycare strategy
However, the Guaranteed Annual Income is a long-term project that requires coordination with provincial governments. In the short term, we have a national daycare crisis, where many families in areas such as Toronto-Danforth cannot find care at any cost. We urgently need a national daycare plan that ensures daycare spots for all the families that need them. Our children are our future. They need a solid start.