Don’t repeat past childcare mistakes

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Message from the President Jerry Dias

We have a national childcare plan at long last, and we cannot afford to lose it to political games in Ottawa.

It’s just too important.

It has been more than 16 years since the previous Liberal government tried to bring in a national childcare program, only to see Stephen Harpers Conservatives kill it after Jack Layton helped them defeat the Paul Martin government

Think about that. Children born when that program was put forward are now making plans for after high school. We can’t let that happen to another generation. No party, including the Liberals, should do anything to allow this important program die due to political maneuvering.

Today we have another minority Liberal government proposing a bold national childcare plan. Again, the Conservatives are not supporting it, and there’s talk of election.

History cannot be allowed to repeat itself. Canadians cannot see another generation of children denied quality childcare.

We were so close last time. The plan was there, and the provinces were on board. The political will public support were there, despite Conservative opposition.

But then the NDP, which supports childcare, sided with the Conservatives to bring down the minority Liberals.

Today, we have a new national childcare plan, widespread support across the country and a Conservative opposition refusing to back a program that would help so many women and their families.

Sound familiar?

What we don’t need this time is an NDP caucus siding with the Conservatives, again, to bring down the government before the program can be implemented.

We also don’t need the Liberals deciding on their own to call or prompt a premature election. They, as much as anybody, need to recognize that Canadians don’t want or need an election right now.

Canada desperately needs this childcare plan. It would provide $10-a-day daycare to families across Canada, at a cost of $30 billion over five years.

“This is social infrastructure that will drive jobs and growth. This is feminist economic policy. This is smart economic policy,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said as she introduced the budget.

The pandemic has hit women particularly hard, and only a feminist budget can address that. The unpaid work of caring for others in the home falls overwhelmingly on women, whose jobs often pay less than men.

Women have been more likely to be pushed out of the job market, with children kept home from school and elderly relatives needing care, and less able to return.

An affordable national childcare program would go a long way to help rebalance all that. It’s not a silver bullet, but it is a huge step forward and needs to be implemented.

An election now would prevent that from happening, however.

Every party, including the Liberals and every opposition party, needs to remember that.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole clearly does not support the plan, talking about costs and “flexibility” - Conservative code for keeping children in unlicensed and home daycare, and basically doing nothing of any real consequence.

If there’s no election for a couple of years, this new childcare plan will already be in its first two years of implementation. Conservatives, if they won, would have to dismantle a popular program - rather than just cancel something that hadn’t started yet.

The NDP under Jagmeet Singh say they worry the Liberals will not follow through with the childcare promise, citing past failed attempts.

“It makes no sense that they’ve been in power so many times over the three decades (and) have not done anything to advance this. How can Canadians believe them now?” Singh asked.

Good question. Maybe look in the mirror for the answer.

Do not repeat the actions of Jack Layton and side with the Conservatives and force an election before this vital childcare program is implemented.

The NDP and the Greens say they don’t want an election. Good, so don’t force one.

The Liberals can’t let Singh’s warning come true. Canadians support the childcare plan, and will not be forgiving if the Liberals call an election and let the plan die, or even be delayed.

There are no doubt some fixes that can be made to this childcare plan – no legislation is perfect, after all – and it is the Opposition’s job to point those out and fight for any improvements.

By all means do that. I’m sure the Canadian people will appreciate the input – but don’t bring down the government and force an election over it.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.