Montreal, January 13, 2006 – A Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) fellow warns Canadians that the Quebec day-care system is not as utopian as some federal political parties might have us believe in the current electoral campaign.
“Advocates of a national program cite the example of the childcare centres set up in Quebec after the quasi-nationalization of day care in 1997,” writes Paul Daniel Muller in an opinion piece submitted to several Canadian dailies. “Parents have access to a quality service at the affordable price of $7 per day. However, the situation in Quebec is not nearly as rosy as is claimed and Canadians need to know the downside of the reform.”
Mr. Muller cites two-year waiting lists, lack of parental choice and a proliferation of day-care strikes as the main shortcomings in the Quebec system since its 1997 reform under a Parti Québécois administration. “Access to a subsidized space depends neither on the parents’ financial circumstances, nor on the needs of children who may require special help… The only factor that now plays a role is the rank of a child on a waiting list, i.e., bureaucratic convenience.”
Subsidizing parents through cash transfers, vouchers, or tax rebates rather than government subsidies to childcare centres would best achieve the government’s public policy objectives. “When purchasing power remains in the hands of those who benefit from a service, providers remain responsive to user needs,” writes Mr. Muller.
A fellow of the MEI, Paul Daniel Muller is an economist and public affairs consultant focusing on organizational issues and public service financing.
His essay, “Childcare: Let’s Empower the Parents!,” may be found on the MEI’s Web site.
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