Friday, February 5, 2010

The Politics of Child Care

So here we go again.

Ignatieff has put child care out there. We'll soon be inundated with the shield banging of working women and stay at home moms. The former will claim it a long overdue necessity for the modern age, the latter will perceive it as a direct insult.

For the record, I support a national child care plan. My 3 brothers and sister and I were all raised by our mother, so naturally I was on the other side at first. However, as with most policy issues, there's a wide range of data on the issue from other countries and I think any objective observer has to recognize that, given demographics and modern economies, the choice between child care and staying home is an increasingly rare luxury.

It's the demographics that will make this such an interesting battle. At some point our political parties need to turn away from the boomers and look to the next generation. Women now make up at least half of the Canadian workforce. We know that back in 2006 about half the population supported a national child care program, less in Quebec where they got to have their daycare and a nice cheque from the Conservatives at the same time. Going in to the next election I'm going to suggest that the numbers on support for a national system start to shift. The biggest reason is that even supporters of the CPC's paltry beer and popcorn money have by now realized just how useless that cash is for paying for child care. There's a serious shortage of daycare spaces in Canada's cities and it's affecting my demographic; young, educated professionals with mortgage payments and less benefits than their parents received 20 years ago. At some point ideology comes up against cold hard reality, and that reality is that my generation is having trouble affording child care and staying home is not an option.

At the moment, I don't think there's much of a downside on either side of this issue. However, going forward the Liberal position is where the smart money is and, framed correctly, can pay dividends as soon as the next election.

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