'We're both better for it'
This letter, published September 5, 2007 was written in response to another article published in the Montreal Gazette and the Regina Leader-Post on August 21, 2007. My own chosen title was "Quebec Day Care System is No Model". If space had permitted, I would have mentioned how allocating public funds towards private daycares has proven to have a far superior dollar-to-space ratio. The original Bagnall article follows at the end. A response to my letter was received in the L-P, the link to which is here.
'We're both better for it'

The Leader-Post

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I strongly disagree with Janet Bagnall's article on Quebec's day-care system in the Aug. 21 Leader-Post.

Bagnall says the western world could solve its worker shortage by adopting the kind of state-sponsored daycare found in Quebec. "Much of the political opposition to subsidized child care and generous tax breaks to working mothers is ideological," she insists.

I say that only ideology would make Quebec a model for any jurisdiction.

Recently, the city of San Francisco pursued a similar program, sparking the San Francisco Chronicle to research the Quebec experience. In December 2005, Chronicle journalists Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell published their article: "Universal preschool is inviting universal disaster".

They tell us the province provides 190,000 childcare spaces, subsidizing at least $33 per day, leaving the parent only paying $7. The Quebec daycare program that was supposed to cost $230 million over five years now costs $1.7 billion annually -- 33 times what was promised!

In recent years, unionized workers, threatening a strike, negotiated a 40-per-cent increase in wages over four years. The cost of care has doubled since the program began and now exceeds $15,000 per infant per year.

Ironically, no one has taken better advantage of day-care services than those most able to afford it on their own. Half of the Quebec spaces are taken up by families in the top 30-per-cent income bracket.

The authors tell us what else happened at the program's launch: "Literally overnight, long lines of desperate parents vying for a 'free' day-care spot emerged. Parents registered babies yet to be conceived. And when they did land a spot, they paid their $7-a-day to hold it -- even if they were months away from using it."

Last year, a University of Toronto study found that children in Quebec day cares were 17 times more hostile to parents than those raised at home, and were also three times more anxious.

Studies of daycares in the U.K. and Australia have had similar results regarding child behaviour. The March/April 2007 issue of Child Development recently published the results of the longest-running and most comprehensive study of child care in the U.S. It found that the more time children spent in center-based daycare before kindergarten, the more likely their teachers reported problem behaviour in elementary school, including demanding a lot of attention, arguing a lot, bragging and boasting, bullying, destroying others' belongings, disobedience, fighting, lying, cheating, and screaming.

The study's author, Dr. Jay Belsky, has said, "Tax policies (should) support families raising infants and toddlers in ways that afford parents the freedom to make childrearing arrangements they deem most appropriate ... thereby reducing the economic coercion that pushes many to leave the care of their children to others."

I wholeheartedly agree. As a stay-at-home dad, I am glad that that heavy-handed taxation doesn't force my money and my daughter away from me. We're both better for it.

Lee Harding