This column first ran in the Financial Post and is now free to reprint.
What could Kathleen Wynne possibly have left in her progressive bag of tricks? There’s an election one year away, and the premier has already offered universal pharmacare for kids, rent control and a $15 dollar minimum wage. What costly razzle-dazzle does the premier have left to wow voters?
Behold Wynne’s June 6th proposal of “universally affordable” child care—which is neither universal nor affordable. With this idea the premier is following in the footsteps of the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, the NDP’s Rachel Notley, and of course the separatist former Quebec premier Pauline Marois.
However, Ontario’s Liberals are not proposing universal daycare along the lines of the original Quebec policy or Alberta pilot project.
Subsidies will only be available to low- and middle-income families, and this is a good thing. The universality of Quebec’s day-care program caused significant problems: the new subsidized spots had long wait lists even as those scarce spots were scooped up by affluent families. Maclean’s magazine noted that families in the top 25 per cent of income earners were twice as likely to grab a day-care spot as those in the bottom 25 per cent. Quebec eventually abandoned this model, and has now moved to a sliding scale where higher-income families pay more.
Although Indira Harris-Naidoo, Ontario’s associate minister for early years and child care, stated that the government is on a “path” to universality, the current proposal is not universal. While Harris-Naidoo would not clarify during her press conference what the income thresholds were to be, or what “affordable” actually means, it’s a good thing that the province isn’t following the failed Quebec model. Hopefully, this doesn’t change.