This topic highly interests me so I have been spending ages looking for more information on the Liberal plan to have a Universal Daycare Program across Canada. I am coming up blank on some very important issues. Has anyone else found anything concrete or just 'numbers'?? I can find all sorts of mentions of various totals the program was supposed to have (anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion) but even then, I cannot find for sure if that was supposed to be yearly, over 5 years, or what.
But here are other things that concern me and I have yet to find any sort of answer for:
1 - Wages. If the vast majority of income for daycare centers will come from the government, who then determines the staff's wages? Staff that are casual, part-time, full-time; staff that are level one, level two, or level three educated; staff that are long term 5 10 15 20 years in the same center; staff that are new hires or working there less than 5 years; and so on. If a daycare can only charge $7 a day per space, that does not leave much room (if any) for control over how they pay their own staff. In my center, it would take about 15 spaces to make up ONE staff member's wage and we only have 21 spaces. Hmmm... not much elbow room. So should the government determine my wage? Will it increase? Decrease? Stay the same? If it stays the same - for how long? I have been at my center since 1995 - will they take that into account, or just pay us all the same? What about differing standards of living in each town, city, and rural area? Staff in Calgary make considerably more per hour than in my town because the costs are higher. Who in the wide wide world of sports is going to sit around and figure all of this out? I have yet to see any mention of it anywhere.
Note: Quebec has centers in this style but I do not wish to check out their funding because the province receives a healthy portion from the rest of us in Canada in order to be able to do what they do now, so it's moot point. If it goes across Canada eventually, those funds will be stretched thinner.
2 - Extra Activities. What amount of funding will go to each center to determine the amount of activites each place does? Will they all have to be stream-lined and offer the same? For example, we have offered Sign Language programs and field trips. Other centers have offered Music Appreciation and brought in puppeteers or story tellers. Some have toy and book lending libraries. Some have parents do volunteer work to lower their fees. Each place is unique and parents can shop around to find out what they like and how much they are willing to pay. But if the bulk of funds is coming from the government, will those differences and choices be removed?
3 - Education levels. I mentioned above that there are different education levels that affect pay rate, but there are also differences from province to province over what amount of education is required for daycare staff. When I lived in BC, I could not work in the local daycare despite 6 years of experience because I did not have my first year of ECD certificate. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, I could work there without the first year certificate, as long as I had completed a smaller course that is even offered for free at the colleges. So basically, in BC at least, all staff required an ECD certificate but in other provinces they do not.... will that remain the same or will everyone have to become the same and provinces no longer be in control. After all, if the bulk of the cash is coming from the Feds, what 'say' would each province have?
4 - Is $7 a day fair to those who only earn low incomes? That works out to about $140 a month for 20 days of care.... but that is almost $50 a month MORE than what current low income parents pay at my center who are subsidized. Will there be subsidy for those individuals again, or will they have to pay the same amount as someone who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars per year? Is that actually 'fair'? Fair to whom? The middle class would see a great change in their monthly finances that's for sure - it appears it would benefit them the most. However - will the costs show up elsewhere instead? Higher income taxes or taxes and prices on other goods and services? Will they REALLY save what they think they are going to save? Who has the answer for this? And then you have to picture the low income families again who may end up paying MORE in some regions than they do right now, and then also have to struggle with increased costs elsewhere in their lives. That doesn't exactly sound exciting.
5 - Food. Will the government take into account what the children are fed and how much it costs? Snacks and lunches are provided - but each region has different food costs and get their food from different places. Some make it on site, some have it catered. Will this change? What if one center currently charges a higher fee than mine does because the food is catered while we make it by hand... will they receive more funding than us each month? Is that fair? Who will determine this?
6 - Misc Costs. Utilities and operating costs will differ from region to region. How will funding for that work? Will each center have to hand in all of their receipts each month such as phone, utilities, internet, book keeping, lease or rent cost, etc and receive it back the next month in funding? Who will handle this? My boss does her books by hand each month and then employs an accountant once a year for the final income tax stuff while others hire book keepers each and every month to deal with bills, payroll, etc. Will they receive more funding than us? Is that fair? My center is actually in a home that my boss lives in, so who will decide how much of her combined utility bill pertains to running the center? Who decides all of this? Will the government (aka the taxpayers) be footing the bill for a center's accountant??? Seriously - how is this all going to work?? Does anyone have an actual answer?
7 - Late payments. Over the past 15 years, the govt has been notoriously late putting in the funding that we DO get (subsidies, staff wage enhancement, etc) and we have to work around that. What if the entire business's funding is coming from the govt aside from a piddly daily fee for the parents, and it is LATE? How will staff be paid, bills be paid, doors stay open, if this continues to be a regular occurrence? My boss made a phone call a few years ago after a disasterously late govt funding payment and was told that as the business owner, she should have something else set up for 'such occasions'. That was back in the day when less than half of the funding came from the govt via subsidized parents.... what exactly do they expect a business owner to 'have in place' when 90% of the funding is received that way? A second job? To cover for GOVT mishandling?? For many thousands of centers across the entire country? Are you kidding me? I would say that maybe 4 times a year, the funding goes in 'on time' right now. Are we ready for this to get scarier?
8 - Choice. I have been told, while questioning this idea in the past, that centers would have a choice whether to be part of the $7-a-day daycare program or not,,, they could remain completely private and separate if they wish, like in Quebec. Okay - so that would mean we would only be catering to the well-off families who are willing to pay $650+ a month instead of $140 a month, and give up our goal of trying to help local parents who are lower and middle income. We have the second lowest monthly fee in the city and yet have the lowest staff turnover by far. We have looked after entire families of 7 children, one after the other, and they come back to see us when they are grown and are now starting to come with THEIR own children. Makes me feel old lol, but it's also wonderful. So we would have to kiss that goodbye if we decided not to buy into this 'universal daycare' program nonsense. I doubt we would even go private, what would happen is we would close our doors and I am willing to bet money that we would not be the only ones by far. Once the newness wears off and people see what is really going on and directors see how they have lost control of their businesses, we will see doors closing or becoming private faster than you can blink, or treasured staff dropping out. Mark my words.
Okay so why am I ranting about this again when the Liberals suffered an historic defeat this month? Because the topic is not going to go away. The Conservatives have a majority right now but we cannot predict what is going to happen in the future. I received several emails at work before the election, from places like the Canadian Child Care Federation, willing staff to 'vote for Child Care' in the election. Those emails will keep coming every cycle and the topic will not just disappear. I would like the answers to each and every one of my questions answered by those who support the idea, those who hold office and tout the program. I do not want wishy-washy numbers thrown at me, I want to see their actual PLAN in detail. Why dont others who support this??? Have they even thought about any of the 8 points I listed above? Or do they think it's going to be a magical transition and all work out peachy?
PS - will this also be directed toward day HOMES? They have to be licensed in Alberta and other provinces, so would they be part of this $7/day thing as well? Or would they be forced out and lose their dayhomes to larger centers that have more than 6 children in them? If they are regulated and licensed much the same as any daycare center, would they not be part of this as well? That's another huge cost to tax payers to take into account.