Quebec Needs better Funding for Public Daycare

Graphic: Gabor Bata

Quebec is the only province in Canada to offer government-subsidized daycare.

The program, called Centre de la petite enfance, has existed since 1997. It costs parents $7.30 per child per day—a bargain compared to private-sector alternatives.

However, due to budget cuts and institutional neglect, the public system has not kept up with demand. In order to support the public system, the government should provide more funding to the CPE, instead of cutbacks.

The childcare system has changed a lot over the years. When it was formed, the CPE was a generous idea all the citizens could benefit from.

Still, they provide daycare services with a fully trained educator in each group, all year round. Parents were originally required to contribute only $5 a day, regardless of income.

The provincial government cut $120 million from subsidized daycares across the province in 2015—now the cost can go up to $13 from the base $7.30 based on family income. The additional cost is only calculated when parents do their yearly taxes.

It was wrong for the Liberals to have adjusted the price of childcare by income. Higher-income families already pay more income tax. This change effectively makes them pay twice. Some families will undoubtedly have to cut down on other expenses once they calculate what they owe the government due to increased daycare fees at tax time. The issue of financing has to be revised, and we should turn back to a universal form with a single cost for parents.

Taken individually, the cuts might not appear to be a big deal, but taken altogether, they reduce the quality of services offered in the childcare centres.

Budget cuts affect education and services provided to young children in Quebec’s public system. As the impact of these cuts begins to be felt, many daycares will have to slash science and music programs, close earlier and reduce staff hours.

That’s led to turning away from young children who need extra care or supervision. In order to save money, some daycares have had to merge with other ones. The daycare operators have also had to revise food expenses. For example, they have to reduce the amount of meat and fresh fish. And it is unfair towards children, because it is all about nutrition and their health.

I think that Quebec’s original public program was a great success in the province. It was more than just affordable childcare; it was an ambitious experiment in Canadian society. This service is as important as the public education and universal free health care.

The decision to cut daycares’ funding is an example of a fundamental restructuring of Quebec’s priorities. The government should care and improve this program—providing more funding to the CPE, not less.

The province should invest in young children to give them a better start. Money invested in educational daycares would help develop the most important thing in our society—young Canadians, our future generation.