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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Contextual Factors: Deficit Reduction and Devolution
Downsizing and Deregulation
The Impacts on Women
Can Canada Work Without Child Care?
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Women's Support, Women's Work:
Child Care in an Era of Deficit Reduction, Devolution Downsizing and Deregulation
The research and publication of this study were funded by Status of Women Canada's Policy Research Fund. This document expresses the views and opinions of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official policy or opinion of Status of Women Canada or the Government of Canada.
As an interim measure during the fiscal year 1996-1997, consulation participants agreed that short-term research projects addressing immediate needs should be undertaken while the external committee was being established to develop longer-term priorities. In this context, policy research on issues surrounding the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) and access to justice were identified as priorities.
On June 21, 1996, a call for research proposals on the impact of the CHST on women was issued. The proposals were assessed by Status of Women Canada and external reviewers. The research projects selected for funding in this area focus on women receiving social assistance, economic security for families with children, women with disabilities, the availability and affordability of child care services, women and health care, and women's human rights.
The call for research proposals on access to justice was issued on July 18, 1996. Also assessed by Status of Women Canada and external reviewers, the selected policy research projects in this area include a study of abused immigrant women, lesbians, women and civil legal aid, family mediation, and the implications for victims of sexual harassment of the Supreme Court ruling in Béliveau-St. Jacques.
The objective of Status of Women Canada's Policy Research Fund is to enhance public debate on gender equality issues and contribute to the ability of individuals and organizations to participate more effectively in the policy development process. We believe that good policy is based on good policy research. We thank all the authors for their contribution to this objective.
A complete listing of the research projects funded by Status of Women Canada on issues surrounding the Canada Health and Social Transfer and access to justice is provided at the end of this report.
The draft report was circulated for review and comment to:
We also wish to thank Status of Women Canada for providing the funds to enable this examination of the impact of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) and related policy changes on the availability and affordability of child care.
The child care situation has become precarious right across the country as the affordability and availability of regulated child care decreases. In the period between 1990 and 1996, two provinces stopped providing recurring financial grants to child care programs, and the amount of such grants was decreased in four provinces. Recurring grants have been frozen in five jurisdictions. This means that new services cannot obtain them. Fees for child care increased in all the provinces and in the Yukon between 1989 and 1993. They increased again between 1993 and 1995 in five provinces and both territories. In the same period, average family incomes decreased, fee subsidy amounts failed to keep pace with fee increases and fee subsidies have been limited by a limit on the total fee subsidy budget or the total number of families served. The availability of regulated spaces has decreased in tandem with the decreased affordability. This is a result of programs closing or not staffing spaces because they cannot cover their operating costs. Child care providers are experiencing stress associated with funding cutbacks and the need to assume additional tasks. Some have lost their jobs.
The Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), introduced in 1996 to replace the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) and Established Program Financing (EPF), and further reductions in federal funds for the provinces and territories, appear likely to exacerbate the situation. It is important to note that it is not the CHST alone that is affecting the affordability and availability of child care. The CHST is an extension of the federal government's retreat from cost sharing social service expenditures with the provinces, and reductions in the amount of federal funding that began in the late 1970s. Child care is also being affected by the changing roles of the federal and provincial/territorial governments in the social service area.
In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that the availability of affordable, high quality child care is a crucial component in strategies to address broad national objectives. These national objectives include promoting the optimal development of all children, reducing the incidence of child poverty, developing a healthy economy, and promoting women's economic and social equality.
A shift in the roles and responsibilities of federal and provincial/territorial governments and between each of these levels of government and the citizens of Canada, is occurring. This shift is away from direct state funding of services to reliance on the tax system for income redistribution and away from a moderate degree of federal leadership and involvement in social programs to an emphasis on the primacy of the provinces. In this political climate, it is difficult to identify an approach that would halt the current rapid deterioration of child care services in Canada and move toward a national child care strategy. Yet Canada desperately needs affordable, high quality child care. This paper discusses some options for governments to work together to develop a national child care plan. The National Children's Agenda may provide a window of opportunity for so doing.
Last updated : 29 mar 1998