The Disastrous Rollout of the Feds’ $10-a-Day Child-Care Program

The Disastrous Rollout of the Feds’ $10-a-Day Child-Care Program
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Chrystia Freeland speaks at a press conference at a local child-care centre in Ottawa, on March 29, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
2/22/2024
Updated:
2/22/2024
0:00
Commentary

In 2021 Ottawa announced plans for nationwide $10-a-day child care at a cost of $30 billion over five years. Three years in, how is it going? Not well.

From the outset, skeptics predicted shortages, reduced parental choice, the destruction of private-sector operations, and a significant discrepancy between projected spending and the actual cost of providing child care at a fraction of its true value. The evidence from coast to coast shows all this now coming to pass.
Let’s begin in British Columbia. Vancouver estimates it is short 15,000 daycare spaces. A senior planner told city council last November that “it’s a desert everywhere” when it comes to child care. Elsewhere in B.C., local media in Langley Township, one of the province’s fastest-growing suburban communities, report there is a “desperate childcare shortage.” In Okanagan Valley, the state of child care has reportedly “reached a crisis point.”
Ontario is no better. Child-care centres “are at risk of closing,” say media reports. It’s estimated the child-care shortage could reach 220,000 spaces. According to the Toronto Star, the city “is set to fall well short of its target for new child care spaces by 2026.” In rural Simcoe County, waiting lists for daycare are said to be “insane.”
On the East Coast, CBC News reports activists and unions in Nova Scotia are complaining about a “severe shortage of spaces.” Another CBC story from Newfoundland and Labrador says the child-care sector is—surprise!—short on federal and provincial government cash.
Statistics Canada data confirm the media reports of our national child-care crisis. The number of children aged 0 to 5 years in child care across Canada fell by approximately 118,000 from 2019 to 2023, with an uptick in centre-based attendance offset by a larger decline in home-based child care provision. As a result, today more parents are looking after their kids at home than was the case in 2019. Such a decrease in daycare use nationally seems remarkable, given the billions being spent on increasing access to affordable child care.
StatCan also reports 46 percent of parents with children in daycare had trouble finding it in 2023—up significantly from 36 percent in 2019. Waiting lists have also exploded. The number of children under the age of 1 waiting for a space has grown from 38 percent in 2022 to 47 percent in 2023.

Three years in—not only in big cities but also small towns from coast to coast—Ottawa’s national child-care program is an absolute disaster. Exactly as was predicted.

The key to understanding this unfolding crisis is the deliberate hostility the Trudeau government has shown for private-sector daycare operators, which has severely exacerbated the problems inherent whenever government attempts to impose a centrally planned takeover of a sector or industry.

According to recently passed federal legislation, the Liberals’ national child-care plan is meant to “facilitate access to early learning and child care programs and services … provided by public and not for profit child care providers.” In some provinces, the apparent goal is to get rid of all private-sector daycares. Yet entrepreneurs are best able to respond quickly to rising demand. They are also more efficient than unionized, non-profit operators.

Even in provinces where the private sector is tolerated, the funding arrangements required to participate in the $10-a-day subsidy program have severely limited entrepreneurs’ ability to recoup costs and make a profit. “It is virtually impossible for my centre to remain financially viable under the new agreement,” Christine Pasmore, the owner of a daycare centre in Grande Prairie, Alberta, said in an interview.

This government attack on entrepreneurs is also deeply ironic, given how loudly the Liberals proclaim their feminist credentials. The vast majority of private-sector daycare owners now being forced out of business are women.

So how did Ottawa’s grand experiment in national $10-a-day child care go so wrong? Lowering the price in such dramatic fashion increased demand by a huge factor. Everyone loves a bargain, especially parents. But at the same time, the Trudeau government is trying to rid the child-care system of profit-making entrepreneurs for ideological reasons.

The inevitable result is chaos for parents. Canadian families must now suffer through a severe shortage of spaces and growing waiting lists as demand spikes. It is an outcome eerily similar to complaints about Canada’s crisis-prone medicare system.

Of course, anyone even vaguely familiar with a government takeover of any industry could have seen this coming. The Soviet Union was never well-known for efficiency, an ability to meet demand, or for offering high-quality goods and services. Evidently, Trudeau’s advisers forgot to inform him of this important fact.

A longer version of this essay first appeared at C2CJournal.ca
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Matthew Lau, a Toronto writer, is a senior fellow with the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy, and authored a chapter in "The 1867 Project: Why Canada Should Be Cherished—Not Cancelled."
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