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Tuesday, October 23, 2012 

Sask NDP Leadership Candidate Erin Weir Proposes $7 A Day Provincial Child Care Plan

"NDP leadership candidate Erin Weir is proposing a universally accessible daycare and early learning program for Saskatchewan children between the ages of two and five.

“The importance of early childhood development is well-documented and childcare costs should not prevent parents from choosing to pursue employment opportunities. Therefore, New Democrats have long advocated universal, accessible, affordable, high-quality childcare,” observed Weir. “The challenge is how to put those principles into practice. My solution is for the provincial government to directly create public childcare spaces in Saskatchewan schools.”

The Saskatchewan government currently regulates and funds childcare, but relies on third parties like non-profit organizations or individual homeowners to establish and manage childcare facilities. While Saskatchewan is fortunate to have some excellent daycares like the Regina Early Learning Centre, the overall result has been too few licensed childcare spaces that are too often situated in strip malls or other inappropriate locations.

“Publicly planned and delivered childcare could make use of existing schools that already have educational, recreational and nutritional facilities. This approach could even save some schools currently slated for closure,” said Weir. “Parents with children of different ages could take their preschool-aged children to the same location as those attending school. For five-year-olds, childcare at school would provide the equivalent of optional full-day kindergarten.”

For children between the ages of two and five, Weir would adopt Quebec’s policy of setting fees at $7 per day. Assuming a proportionally similar uptake to Quebec, Saskatchewan would need about 17,000 additional childcare spaces. As outlined in the accompanying backgrounder, the annual cost of establishing these spaces as well as lowering fees to $7 per day for both new and existing spaces would be about $180 million.

“We accept that modern healthcare and education systems require governments to provide facilities, train professionals and plan for demographic change. If childcare and early learning are equally important priorities, then our government should take an equally direct approach to ensuring the delivery of these public services,” said Weir. “As an economist, I know that the best investment we can make is in our children.”

Mr Weir has provided a fully costed fact sheet to accompany his proposal ...

As a supporter of the $7 daycare program here in Quebec, I would suggest to Mr. Weir to avoid the various pitfalls that beset former Liberal Party of Quebec premier Jean Charest such as not using the contracts as political favours to supporters and equally important, to make sure that they are rolled out first where it's needed the most: the areas where poverty is prevalent.

But I commend Mr. Weir for pushing forward bold ideas.

Of course, according to Jean Chretien's "red book", universal and affordable daycare is coming to all of Canada... nearly 10 years later, we're still waiting Mr. Chretien.

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