2021 Platform Analysis: Family affordability
Gen Squeeze's analysis of the 2021 federal election platforms.

Family affordability scorecard

We scored the parties' platforms to see how close they get us to achieving our goal of making it affordable for all Canadians to start and raise families. Download the scorecard and check out the full analysis below!

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This analysis is current as of September 9, 2021. You can find the complete Voter's Guide (covering housing, family, climate and public finance here

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous assessment of federal party platforms and commitments on four key issues: housing affordability, family affordability, climate change, and overall plans to budget for wellbeing for all generations.

Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform goes towards actually solving big problems facing young people today.

Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of these promises, individually and in aggregate.  We do this by assessing the degree to which each major party’s platform advances the evidence-based actions needed to address the key issues squeezing younger Canadians.  You can find detailed information on the methodology we use to analyze and assess party platforms.

In this document, you will find:

  • Summary score table: The commitments made by each party in their platform are assigned a score.  This score is determined based on the extent to which the actions proposed by the party will move us towards the solutions identified in Gen Squeeze’s game plans on housing and family affordability, climate change, and wellbeing budgeting for all generations.
  • Detailed commentary: In depth discussion of the platform commitments made by each party that informed the scores, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each commitment.

Gen Squeeze does not tell you who to vote for.  And we don’t aim to portray any party in a favourable or unfavourable light.  Our goal is to help voters be as informed as possible about the positions of all of the parties on the big issues squeezing younger Canadians.  You can get more information on our commitments to be non-partisan and evidence based

Punchlines

1. This is an historic election for child care policy.  Never before have we had an incumbent government put on the table sufficient money to build a truly affordable, high quality, universal child care system.  The Liberal party allocated the dollars required to build a $10 a day child care system in its 2021 budget – an  idea that Gen Squeeze started championing over a decade ago.  That plan is the real deal – bringing to life a vision for child care that was first proposed in the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women.  (If only men hadn’t been so slow to figure out the importance of child care!).

The NDP and Greens affirm they will allocate enough money to sustain the Liberal party’s $10 a day commitment in the 2021 budget.  So three of the four parties propose massive improvements to child care. If you don’t want child care to cost another mortgage- or rent-sized payment, then these parties propose plans to build the systems that can bring the costs down in the years ahead  It is worth noting that the Liberal platform (informed by the 2021 budget) provides the most detail about how to implement the plan as quickly as possible, and the party did already establish implementation agreements with most provinces prior to the start of the election.

The Conservatives are outliers on child care, recommending that federal government convert its current Child Care Expense Deduction into a Tax Credit.  The Conservative approach would invest less than 10% of what the other parties are promising. This means their tax credit approach delivers substantially less money to families.  It is also insufficient to build a child care system that will deliver high quality experiences for children and pay equity wages for early childhood educators. Despite good language about child care in the Conservative platform, the party’s budget allocation shows it is pretty much offering a “status quo”, not a game-changing, approach. 

2. While three of four parties get strong marks for child care, all the platforms are relatively silent about improving work-life balance more generally.  

Perhaps this makes sense, because the improvements to child care that are under debate are historic – and merit lots of attention.

Still, the limited attention to parental leave policy is a weakness, because our current leave system suffers three problems.  (1) The benefit value is too low, and imposes a significant financial squeeze on many families when they take time to care for a newborn.  (2) The leave system risks incentivizing many women to take long leaves over 12 months, which can reinforce the glass ceiling and pay inequity for many women. This second problem exists because of a third. (3) Recent changes to increase parental leave from 12 to 18 months didn’t engage dads to share fully in the joys and burdens of child care at home by allocating 1/3 of the leave period for them, 1/3 for moms, and 1/3 to be shared however families like (with appropriate exceptions for lone parents and lesbian couples).  No party has a plan to address these ongoing shortcomings.

Plus, there is insufficient discussion in Canadian political circles about improving work-life balance more generally. Given that the large gap between housing costs and local earnings requires many more dual-earner households with kids, and lots of lone parents, we need our political leaders to talk more about spreading our paid work time better across our work-lives so that we can achieve greater balance each week or each year while we are in the labour market. Time (at home) is money. It’s time to talk about this more. This wouldn’t necessarily mean less time in the labour market overall. It would mean spreading the work differently over our lives.  The reality is that Canadians are living 7-10 years longer than when our country first designed its retirement income policies. This strains our retirement income system, risking its sustainability, if we don’t adapt the age to which we expect most people to work.  So spreading our work time better across lives is a big deal. But no party is engaging on this issue; and, if anything, the Liberals and NDP are moving us backward.



Approach to Platform Analysis

For the 2021 federal election, Gen Squeeze is focusing our analysis on the four major parties that began the race with at least one MP who was elected as a representative of that party, and that are running a national slate of candidates. This includes the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party. 

Our assessment of party commitments on family affordability is based on our family affordability framework.  This framework was developed based on research led at the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), a research centre at the University of BC. HELP has served as an international knowledge hub about early child development, and its impact on life-long health. Portions of it also align with and draw from the work of e.g. the national Child Care Now movement and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and $10aDay plan, to which Gen Squeeze has contributed. Read more about our framework design here. 

Our analysis of child care promises has been informed by Gordon Cleveland who is an emeritus professor of economics at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and recently a member of the Government of Canada’s Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data.

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To support the analysis of party platforms, we've translated our family policy framework into 12 key criteria. Parties are assigned points based on their platform's response to each of these criteria. Score range from +1.0 to -1.0, assessed as follows:

 

Assessment Points
No discernible commitments 0
Commitments are somewhat capable of achieving the goal 0.5
Commitments are capable of achieving the goal 1.0
Commitments somewhat undermine progress towards the goal -0.5
Commitments undermine progress towards the goal -1.0

 

You can learn more the full scoring methodology, the rationale for this approach, and its limitations, by reading our detailed methodology.


Summary score table

The table below summarizes the scores of the Conservative party, the Green Party, the Liberal party and the New Democratic party on each of the 12 family affordability criteria.

We welcome feedback from parties, including concerns that we may have misinterpreted elements of their platforms when assigning our scores. We commit to revising our scores in light of party evidence that their platforms or other election documents include commitments that align with the evaluation criteria.

Note for mobile/smartphone device users: The table below may not display properly on your smartphone screen. If the table appears to be cut-off, please return to this page on laptop or desktop. We apologize for the inconvenience.

 

Criteria used to assess party platforms

Party scores

 

CPC

LPC

NDP

GRN

 CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

 

 

 

 

1

Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Choice?

1

1

1

1

2

Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Equality”?

0.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

3

Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Time with Family”?

1

0.5

1

0.5

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO STAY HOME WITH YOUR FAMILY

 

 

 

 

4

Do the platforms dial up parental leave benefit amounts?*

0

0

0

0

5

Do the platforms make parental leave benefits available to all households?*

0

0.5

0.5

0

6

Do the platforms further promote shared parental leave?*

0

0

0

0

 

*The costs of these changes will require approximately another $10 billion in annual funding, e.g. phased in over the next decade, or ideally over the next mandate (4 years). This will require a minimum $1 billion increase in the annual allocation for parental leave in 2020, to be boosted by an additional billion each year on route to the $10 billion increase required.

 

 

 

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO GO TO WORK

 

 

 

 

7

Do the platforms dial down child care service fees? 

0

1

1

1

8

Do the platforms ensure pay equity and supports for child care workers?

0

1

1

0

9

Do the platforms ensure high-quality child to caregiver ratios?*

0

0.5

0

0

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO: BALANCE BOTH

 

 

 

 

10

Do the platforms incentivize shorter full-time work-norms?

0

0

0

0

11

Do the platforms incentivize flexible work hours?

0.5

0

0

0

12

Do the platforms acknowledge longer work lives?  

0

-0.5

-0.5

0

 

TOTAL SCORE (out of a possible 12)

3.0

4.5

4.5

3

 

Weighted to a total score out of 10 (to more easily compare to other issue areas)

2.5

3.75

3.75

2.5

 

Detailed Commentary 

Below is a comprehensive explanation of why Gen Squeeze assigned the scores we did to each party for each criterion, and the strengths and weaknesses of individual policy proposals.

For each section, we generally begin our commentary with the party we see as having the strongest platform on that criteria and then move to parties we see as having the weakest platform or the least to say.   

CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

 

Criterion 1: Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Choice”?


This means abandoning traditional divides between supporting families at home (e.g. by offering individual financial support in the form of benefit payments, tax breaks, etc.) and supporting families to go to work (e.g. through a universal system of affordable, quality child care) and instead giving families opportunities to more successfully balance both.


Liberal party: The Liberals made an historic investment in $10 a day child care in the 2021 federal budget, and promise to maintain this commitment if re-elected. The platform also features previous policy changes to improve parental leave so that parents are encouraged to share more time at home with a new baby. We award a full point.

NDP: The NDP commit to significant new investments to build a $10 a day child care plan, while also proposing several modest improvements to parental leave changes introduced in recent years by the Liberals.  We assign a point for the guiding principle of choice. 

Green party: The Green platform speaks to the importance of investing in child care, and making parental leave “more flexible and better paid” (p. 46).  We award them a full point.

Conservative party: Conservatives also commit to some new spending on child care through a tax credit (albeit substantially less money than the other three parties); and the party takes steps to increase flexibility for parents to earn wages while on leave. It’s interesting that both of these Conservative proposals focus on parents’ connection to the labour market, because the Conservative party has historically demonstrated an especially strong focus on supporting parents, particularly mothers, to stay home. Given this important part of the Conservative party legacy, we award the platform a full point for the new measures it introduces to help parents choose both paid work and time at home.

 

Criterion 2: Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Equality”?


This means encouraging a more equal sharing of caregiver responsibilities in 2+ parent households, including sharing both the joys and burdens of caring for and paying for children; and to advance both gender equality, as well as equality between parents regardless of their gender identities.


Liberal party: The Liberal platform includes “Gender and Diversity Impact” summaries for all commitments, which reflects its commitments to equality. This commitment is also reflected in specific promises on child care that acknowledge how the absence of affordable, accessible services primarily impacts women (p. 16).  Liberal child care proposals include measures to ensure that the work of (predominantly female) early childhood educators is better valued.  While the platform does not propose any new measures to encourage moms and dads to share more equally leave to care for kids, it did introduce important incremental progress toward this goal in 2019 by introducing the Parental Sharing Benefit. We award the platform half a point, signaling there remains room to improve parental leave program to encourage dads to share greater responsibility for caregiving at home.


NDP: We give the NDP half a point for this criterion. The platform states that “Gender equity is a fundamental value for New Democrats” (p.95), and points to actions to address barriers to women’s employment due to the lack of affordable child care, increased flexibility in parental leave, and “living wages” for child care workers (p.29). The platform does not talk about designing leave policy to encourage sharing of time at home between dads and moms. This is an important omission, because the leave period can be a very important moment for disrupting, or reinforcing, the gender division of caregiving, which in turn shapes the gender earnings gap, the glass ceiling, and occupational segregation for women in lower-paying jobs.

Conservative party: The Conservatives also receive half a point for this criterion.  Their platform elevates the party’s attention to inequality, stating that “It’s time for Conservatives to take inequality seriously” (p.11), and that “Canada’s Conservatives will take action to end gender inequality” including through (modest) action on child care, and addressing the gender pay gap (though female dominated careers like early childhood education are not specifically mentioned).  The Conservatives do not talk about designing its leave policy to encourage sharing of time at home between dads and moms.  

Green party: The Greens also express a high level commitment to the principle of gender equality, particularly in the context of disproportionate harms experienced by women through the pandemic (p. 74).  However, the platform makes no reference to inequalities between women and men in the context of commitments on parental leave or child care – and does not address the issue of supporting shared leave for dads and moms.  We give the Greens half a point for this criterion.

 

Criterion 3: Do the platforms demonstrate a commitment to the principle of “Time with Family”?


This means embracing family time with kids and family supports as a cornerstone of Canadian society.


Conservative party:  The Conservative platform (p. 47) states its “goal is nothing less than to make Canada the most family-friendly country in the world.” We award a full point.

NDP: The NDP (p. 22) refer specifically to financial pressures on younger Canadians causing them to “delay starting to have a family,” and that parents “have no time left to spend with their kids” after paid work responsibilities absorb so much time given the high costs of living. The promises to address such problems. We therefore award a full point.

Liberal Party: In its previous mandates, the Liberal government emphasized the need to support more parental time at home with a newborn, and adapted parental leave policy accordingly. In this platform, the theme of time at home with family is less prominent than in previous platforms. Since there remains significant opportunity to improve parental leave, and promote work-life balance more generally, we only award the Liberal platform half a point for this criterion.  

Green party: The Green party includes one minor reference to improving and strengthening parental leave.  Beyond that, it is quiet by comparison with the other parties when talking about the importance of parental time with children. A charitable interpretation of the motivation for its promise to create a universal basic income may be to ensure family time is more affordable. We award half a point for this criterion.   

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO STAY HOME WITH FAMILY

 

Criterion 4: Do the platforms include action to increase parental leave benefit amounts?


Particularly in ways that (a) increase the minimum benefit amount to help ensure parents do not have to raise their kids in poverty, and (b) increase the maximum benefit amount to help reduce the disincentive for higher-earning parents to take and share leave. Gen Squeeze modelling suggests minimum benefit of $500/week (close to today’s maximum), and a maximum benefit calculated as 80% of the parent’s annual earnings up to $67,000. This would yield a maximum weekly benefit of $1,031 – nearly double the current maximum value.


No party proposes to increase parental leave benefit amounts to the amount suggested by Gen Squeeze research.  

Green party: The Green platform includes the high level statement that parental leave benefits should be “better paid” (p.  46). This position isn’t supported by either budget information or policy details, making it very difficult to assess its feasibility or anticipated impact. The Greens also suggest that parental leave should be “more inclusive so it covers leave to care for elderly family members, leave following miscarriages and more” (p. 46).  Increasing supports available for elder care and for parents who experience miscarriages is a laudable goal, but is outside the scope of Gen Squeeze’s focus on ensuring adequate parental leave to care for children. In the absence of further information, we do not award a point for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP platforms acknowledges that many families can’t afford to take 18 months of leave while receiving just 33% of their wages.  In response, the party proposes: “a new special leave that allows parents to take shorter parental leave at a higher replacement rate” (p. 26).  No details are provided, so it is difficult to assess the potential impacts of this policy.  However, the platform doesn’t suggest any increase in overall benefit amounts available to parents – instead changing only the amount of time over which benefits can be claimed.  This could yield short term financial benefits for some families – but does so at the cost of time at home.  By comparison with the NDP promise to bring long-term care for seniors under the Canada Health Act, the lack of any substantial investment to improve parental leave is noteworthy. The NDP receive no points for this criterion.

Conservative party: The Conservative platform includes a commitment to extend by 8 weeks parental benefits following the death of an infant.  This policy change may technically constitute an increase in benefits for a minority (thankfully) of parents, but its limited scope will yield insufficient impact on family affordability or the adequacy of parental leave writ large. 

The Conservatives also approach the issue of financial security for parents on leave from the perspective of helping them to work more.  They propose to allow parents on leave to earn up to $1,000 per month “to enable them to stay connected to the work force and ease their return to work” (p. 48).  While additional income from paid work may help to ease the financial squeeze faced by parents, it risks exacerbating the time squeeze for young families.  We award no point.

Liberal party: The Liberal platform is silent on the issue of parental leave benefit amounts, so they also receive no points. This has been a weakness of the Liberal approach to parental leave since 2015.  While they have lengthened the time that is available to families, they have done less to address the financial pressures that arise while on leave. 

 

Criterion 5: Do the platforms include action to make parental leave benefits available to all households?


Meaning benefits are made available to ALL single- and dual-earner households regardless of parents’ attachment to the labour market (including the self-employed). In other words, leave benefits should no longer be based on Employment Insurance (EI) criteria.


NDP: The NDP proposes to “allow self-employed workers to opt-into parental benefits at any time before taking the leave” (p. 26), a commitment also included in the NDP 2019 election platform.  While it is unclear how this NDP promise will affect the benefits for which the self-employed workers are eligible, this is a step towards extending benefit coverage to all households, particularly at a time when more ‘traditional’ full-time, salaried employment is declining.  It also incrementally advances the goal of removing the maternity and parental leave system from the EI system, in keeping with the Gen Squeeze recommendation.  

The other commitment made by the NDP is to double the amount of parental leave time for parents of multiples. As we discuss below, research would urge caution about this promise. Long enough leaves are important. Leaves that are too long result in marginalizing those who take the leave from success in the labour market. Given the gender division of labour, long leaves pose particular risks for women.  We assign the NDP half a point for this criterion.

Liberal party: The 2019 Liberal platform promised to establish Guaranteed Paid Family Leave to “make sure that parents who don’t qualify for paid leave through E.I. or who don’t get enough, because they’re between jobs, earn little, or haven’t worked enough hours, will receive a guaranteed income during the first year of their child’s life”.  This promising proposal would have advanced the Gen Squeeze recommendation to remove parental leave from the EI system – but it was not implemented – and it does not reappear as part of the 2021 Liberal platform.  

The Liberals have already made it possible for self-employed workers to claim leave benefits, if they contribute EI premiums for a minimum of 12 months before going on leave.

The Liberals further promise to introduce by January 2023 a new EI benefit for self-employed Canadians “that would provide unemployment assistance comparable to EI and lasting for as much as 26 weeks” and providing support up to $15,500 (p. 26).  The impact of this proposed new benefit on EI based parental leave provisions is unclear, based on the information currently available.  We award the Liberals half a point for this criterion.

Conservative party: The Conservative platform proposes some measures aimed at improving parental leave for Canadians with weaker connections to the labour market, and for those who are self-employed.  In addition to permitting parents to earn up to $1,000 per month while on leave without impacting parental benefits (see criterion 4), the Conservatives also promise to “allow new parents to start home-based businesses without facing any loss of parental leave income” (p. 24).  But there is no mention in the platform of the need to improve access to parental leave for those who do not qualify for EI. The Conservatives receive no points for this criterion.

Green party: The Greens do not discuss the extension of leave to cover additional households.  The platform notes only that leave should be “more flexible” (p. 46), without specifying what additional kinds of flexibility are needed.  The Green party receives no points for this criterion.

 

Criterion 6: Do the platforms include action to promote shared leave?


Through policy that reserves time for moms and dads, with exceptions for single-parents and same-sex couples. The evidence suggests that "goldilocks-length" periods of reserved leave (not too short, not too long, just right) are required to shift away from problematic expert/helper dynamics that reinforce a harmful gender division of labour, and towards a truer sharing of the joys and burdens involved in caring for, and paying for, children. For example, we recommend six months should be reserved for moms, six months for dads, and the other six months shared between parents. If a parent doesn’t use the entire time reserved for them, the time can’t be allocated to the other parent. The evidence shows that leaves beyond a year for women exacerbate the gender division of labour at home and in employment, giving rise to gender pay gaps and reinforcing the glass ceiling. Plus, the evidence is clear that dads are happier when they get involved early on with their newborns, as are spouses and kids. If paired with the increase in benefit value we propose, all families would gain under this kind of system, even if one parent doesn’t use any of the time reserved for him/her.*


No party proposes to take further action to support shared parental leave. Therefore no points are awarded to any party for this criterion.  This is a problem, because evidence shows that leaves longer than one year exacerbate gender divisions of labour at home and in the labour market, reinforcing gender pay gaps and the glass ceiling.  Plus, the evidence shows that dads are happier when they get involved early on with their newborns, as are their spouses and children (See Kershaw, 2005, Carefair).

The Liberals are not proposing measures to build on their earlier implementation (p. 223) of the Parental Sharing Benefit, which gives an extra five weeks of EI benefits to families when both parents, in a two-parent family, agree to take time off, promoting equality at home and in the workplace.  As in 2019, the Conservative party does not propose revisions to leave policy that would reserve benefits specifically for each parent in a two-parent household, with exceptions for single-parents.  The NDP and Green platforms are also silent about the value of promoting shared leave between parents in two-parent families. 

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO GO TO WORK

 

Criterion 7: Do the platforms include action to decrease child care service fees?


With Gen Squeeze recommending a specific reduction in child care service fees to no more than $10/day (full-time) and $7/day (part-time) making it free for families earning less than around $40,000/year – the low-income cut-off for a family of four in our big cities.


Liberal Party: The Liberal platform reinforces commitments made in Budget 2021 to game-changing levels of investment in child care (pp. 15-16).  The party promises almost $30 billion over 5 years – and a minimum of $9.2 billion per year ongoing – to establish affordable, high quality child care services across Canada (and share costs with Quebec, which is further ahead in its quest to deliver affordable child care).  The Liberal plan includes a commitment to create 250,000 new child care spaces, and hire an additional 40,000 early childhood educators.  

Under the Liberal proposal, the federal government would deliver money to provinces and territories so that they can directly fund licensed child care – which would allow child care service providers to lower the fees charged to parents.  Average fees for fees are projected by the Liberals to drop 50% by the end of 2022, with a promise to deliver $10 a day child care within five year or less – yielding anticipated annual savings for families across Canada ranging from $5,200 to $11,300.  These savings would make a significant contribution to easing the squeeze faced by younger Canadians, for whom child care is currently another rent or mortgage sized payment.  One key detail we will be looking for in future policy announcements is that the maximum fee will be $10 a day.  Sometimes the Liberal party talks about the “average” being $10 a day, which would be a weaker commitment.

When combined with provincial and territorial contributions, the level of investment in child care proposed by the Liberals is sufficient to meet what Child Care Now, Gen Squeeze and other research has confirmed is the cost of creating a strong child care system.  The Liberal government has already taken steps towards meeting this platform commitment, entering into agreements with 8 provinces and territories on the design, roll out and funding of $10 a day child care.  In addition, the Liberals propose to “Enact federal child care legislation to strengthen and protect a Canada-wide child care system” (p. 16).

The Liberals receive a full point for these historic child care commitments.  

Green party: The Green party commits to “Dedicat[ing] additional resources to making a universal, affordable, early learning and child-care (ELCC) system a reality” (p. 46).  Although the Greens don’t specify resource levels and timelines, they do propose to “Immediately begin to ramp up federal child care funding to achieve the international benchmark of at least one per cent of GDP annually” and to ensure that “Long-term, stable, national funding” is available at levels that ensure the child care system meets the principles of universality, affordability, quality, inclusivity, accessibility, and equity (p. 46).  This 1% of GDP budget allocation is recommended by child care experts in Canada (see Child Care Now). This funding level would be sufficient to bring down child care fees to $10 a day (with no fees for low income families). The party receives a full point for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP platform also promises to uphold a commitment to a universal $10 a day child care, with “enough spaces so families don’t spend months on wait lists” (p. 29).  The NDP do not specify what investment level will back up this promise. We presume that the party is committing to at least the funding levels announced in the 2021 budget, which is the basis for all of its platform commitments.  Like the Liberals, the NDP do propose to introduce legislation “that enshrines Canada’s commitment to high-quality, public child care in law” (p. 29). We award the party a full point for this criterion.

Conservative party: The Conservatives take a different direction on child care, promising to convert the existing Child Care Expense Deduction.  This approach would allow families to claim to partial subsidies for their expenses up to $8,000 of annual child care spending – and all families with incomes under $150,000 would receive some money back. 

Whereas the Liberals have budgeted for $30 billion for child care over the next 5 years, the Conservatives budget only $2.6 billion over five years.  The Conservative allocation is not sufficient to make a systemic change to reduce child care unaffordability. Since it is akin to a rounding error on the federal budget, it does not even count as a serious incremental step. Under the Conservative plan, child care will continue to cost another rent-sized payment for many, many families. 

The direct funding option proposed by the Liberals – and supported by the Greens and the NDP – is much more generous in terms of the support delivered to families.  The Conservative tax credit option is likely to provide, on balance, a few thousand dollars to families to help them afford child care. In provinces where the cost of child care is currently $50 or $60 a day, the $10 a day direct funding option will provide a benefit of $10,000 or more to improve child care affordability.

The minor advantages of the tax credit approach include a quick ramp up, with money starting to flow by next year.  Also, the tax credit could be claimed by parents who currently use any type of paid child care – which the Conservatives point to as an advantage for those who work irregular hours and may be les likely to find child care in a regulated centre (p. 122).  Tax credits also do little to expand the amount of child care available (a lack of spaces being a key challenge for parents), or to influence the quality of the services provided (given that any type of child care cost is eligible – not just high quality care with adequate staff:child ratios).

It is positive to see the Conservatives include child care in their agenda – as well as the acknowledgements that child care supports productivity (p. 23), women’s participation in the labour market (p. 23), and women’s equality more generally (p. 133).  However, given that the proposed tax credit approach will not move Canada in any significant way towards the goal of universally affordable child care, we award the Conservatives no point for this criterion. 

 

Criterion 8: Do the platforms include action to ensure pay equity and supports for care workers?


Including (a) training in child development and (b) on-site resources to ensure children spend their time in developmentally stimulating activities and play, including resources for children with extra support needs.


Liberal party: The Liberal child care backgrounder acknowledges that “Ensuring that early childhood educators – over 95 per cent of whom are women – [would] benefit from greater opportunities for professional development and from the development of tools like wage grids to better value their work”.  Budget 2021 (p. 103) also acknowledges that many child care providers are “making low wages, with a media wage of $19.20 per hour.” The Liberal budget includes sufficient public investment to phase in implementation of the $10aday.ca campaign (p. 16) recommendation that qualified Early Childhood Educators “earn a minimum of $26/hour (one-year college certificate) and $29/hour (two year college diploma).” We award the Liberals a full point for this criterion.

NDP: New Democrats promise to ensure that “child care workers are paid a fair, living wage” (p. 29), echoing a similar commitment made in 2019. What constitutes a ‘living wage’ is not specified, but the platform does observe that a federal minimum wage of $15/hour – rising to $20/hour – will “set a national standard for a fair, living wage” (p. 32).  As with other NDP commitments on child care, budget estimates are not provided, so a judgement call is required in regards to allocating half or a full point.  We allocate the full point in this case because the NDP have specifically committed to maintain the $10 a day promise in the last federal budget, which has sufficient dollars to implement a pay equity wage grid for early childhood educators.

Conservative party: So far, the Conservative platform is silent on supporting early childhood educators and ensuring that they receive appropriate pay for their work – though it does commit to action to “address the gender pay gap” more generally (p. 123).  We assign no points for this criterion at this time.

Green party: Like the Conservatives, the Green party also does not specifically address professional development or pay equity for child care workers.  The Greens do promise to pass pay equity legislation more generally (p. 75).  For now, the Green receive no points for this criterion.

 

Criterion 9: Do the platforms include action to ensure high-quality child to caregiver ratios?


With research showing these ratios need to be considerably lower in child care than in elementary schools.


Liberal party: Although the Liberal platform is silent so far on the specific staff:child ratios required for high quality care, they do commit to hiring an additional 40,000 early childhood educators (p. 26).  Whether this number is sufficient to ensure adequate ratios would depend on the number of child care spaces created out of proposed new funding, and on assumptions made by the Liberals about staffing levels at existing child care centres.  For now, we award the Liberals half a point for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP platform does not address staff:child ratios as part of the party’s commitment to establishing an affordable, high quality child care system.  The NDP do point to the importance of relying on “licensed provider[s] making a fair wage” (p. 29), and to creating “enough spaces so families don’t spend months on wait lists” (p. 29).  These references suggest that adequate staffing is part of the NDP’s thinking on ingredients for a universal child care system.  However, with no budget figures to back up party promises, it is difficult to assess whether planned NDP investments will be adequate to achieve this, alongside increasing the number of affordable spaces available to Canadian families.  For this reason, the NDP does not receive any points for this criterion at this time. 

Green party: The Green platform also does not specifically address child care staffing, or the impact this has on staff:child ratios to enable high quality care.  In general, the Greens do commit to grounding a universal, affordable child care system on the principles of “universality, affordability, quality, inclusivity, accessibility, and equity” (p. 46).  Creating a child care system that embeds the principles of quality and accessibility arguably requires action to recruit, train, and fairly compensate a sufficient number of early childhood educators – but in the absence of any budget numbers or further policy details, how the Green intend to act on these principles is unclear.  So far, on this criterion we assign the Green party no points. 

Conservative party:  Conservative commitments on child care focus on delivering support to families via the tax system, and don’t speak to ensuring appropriate staff:child ratios, or to adding additional early childhood educators to address the current lack of spaces. Trying to build a child care system via a tax credit offers limited opportunity to influence the factors that research shows contribute to high quality care:  like low child/staff ratios and pay equity wages.  For this reason, the Conservative platform receives no points for this criterion at this time.

 

Criterion 10: Do the platforms include action to incentivize shorter full-time work-norms?


By adapting overtime, Employment Insurance, and Canada Public Pension premiums paid by employers to make it less costly for businesses to use employees up to 35 hours per week, and more costly for hours thereafter. For example, with new incentives, employers could reduce the full-time work week by 3-5 hours on average for the half of men and third of women who currently work more than 40 hours/week. These employees would trade some after-tax wages (or future wage increases) in order to gain four more weeks of time per year. Changes to the Canada Child Benefit will ensure any reduction in employment hours does not reduce income in low-earning families. This may be especially important for some lone parent households. Employees who currently work part-time hours would gain opportunities for more employment. Within two parent homes, the total number of hours worked by parents may not change, but they may be redistributed more evenly between parents.


None of the parties speak to taking action to reduce full-time work norms.  As there is no platform information relevant to this criterion, we allocate no points to any party so far.

 

Criterion 11: Do the platforms include action to incentivize flexible work hours?


With an understanding that this area of policy is relatively undeveloped (i.e. we're very open to ideas).


The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased attention to flexible work arrangements, with public health orders motivating remote and telework options to a degree that many employers had not previously embraced.  Questions remain about whether these new ‘flexibilities’ will be retained by employers – and/or expected by employees – outside of a pandemic context.  Regardless, it is clear that COVID has contributed to shifts in cultural norms around work, as well as in the tools and technologies that enable workers to connect.  However, it is equally clear that these shifts in workplace norms are uneven. Many lower wage ‘essential workers’ and those in sectors like services and retail having had far fewer opportunities to experience these changes.  These jobs often require ‘in person’ presence, and tend to provide employees with limited control over work environments and schedules. Canadians in these occupations tend to be predominantly female and racialized – groups which were already more likely to be disadvantaged in the workplace before COVID, and which have disproportionately endured the negative economic impacts of the last 18 months. 

Conservative party:  The Conservative platform proposes to “Work with unions to modernize the Canada Labour Code to provide more flexibility in working hours and working from home” (p. 43).  While no additional details are given on the types of changes the Conservatives have in mind, this is a promising statement about the potential to shift workplace norms.  No specific mention is made of work hours (or changing Canadians’ understanding of ‘full-time’ work) but we award the Conservatives a half point for bringing attention to this issue in their platform. 

Green party: The Green platform indicates that the party will “Develop a new working model that will allow for more young people to work remotely from home if it is their preference” (p. 101).  While this commitment certainly suggests an interest in greater work flexibility, limiting it to young people doesn’t make much sense.  Gen Squeeze research documents that the wages earned by younger Canadians have fallen after adjusting for inflation, and that full-time work does not pay what it did when today’s seniors were entering the workforce.  Young workers are also seeking to enter the work force at a time when youth unemployment is high, and precarious forms of part-time and ‘gig’ work increasingly common.  Without embedding increased ‘flexibility’ to work from home in this broader context, there is a risk that it could serve to further marginalize younger workers.  In addition, young Canadians are not the only ones who could benefit from shifting workplace norms.  Shorter and/or more flexible hours would also benefit families with caregiving responsibilities for children or aging parents who are striving to balance time at work and time at home.  Given the very limited nature of the Green party commitment on this criterion, and its limited applicability, we assign them no points.

Liberal party: The Liberal platform does not address the issue of increased flexibility in work arrangements, so at this time the party receives no points for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP platform includes no information about this theme. So far, it receives no points for this criterion.

 

Criterion 12: Do the platforms include action to acknowledge longer work lives?


Because we are living 7-10 years longer than Canadians typically did when we first started our retirement income security systems. Gen Squeeze recommendations for greater work-life balance during our employment years should happen alongside policy conversations about the age at which we are eligible for old age security (OAS). It may be appropriate to expect (many) younger Canadians today to work more work years before we claim OAS, if our longer work-lives help pay for public programs required to facilitate greater work-life balance each year that we are in the labour market.


Conservative party: The Conservative platform does not speak to OAS at all – or public pensions more generally.  We assign them no points on this criterion.

It is worth noting that the previous Conservative government under Prime Minister Harper was courageous in adjusting the age of eligibility for old age security from age 65 to age 67. The Conservatives made this change so that it did not affect anyone in the Baby Boomer generation, because they are relatively close to retirement with less time to adapt. While this means the Conservatives imposed the change entirely on Gen X, Millennials and others who follow in our footsteps, the change was part of a reasonable adaptation for public finance in response to longer average life-expectancy. While no one wants to work more, given that we are living longer, it is appropriate to consider that today’s younger Canadians may need to work for more years.  To support this, governments should simultaneously adapt public policy to support greater work-life balance each year we are in the labour market, though the kinds of family policies called for above by Gen Squeeze.  

Green party: The Green party platform does not speak to public pensions, or OAS specifically.  We give them no points on this criterion at this time.  

NDP: The NDP continues to specifically critique the earlier Conservative decisions to raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, denouncing this change as “reckless” (p. 64).  At the same time, the party commits to “strengthening public pensions and improving retirement security for all Canadians and providing a basic guaranteed livable income for seniors” (p. 63).

Canada’s public pension system and Guaranteed Income Supplement already provide a guaranteed basic income for seniors – and they do this relatively well, which is why seniors have the lowest rates of poverty in Canada compared to all other age groups.  While younger Canadians may not want to think about ‘working more’, the reality is that we are living 7-10 years longer on average, compared to when Canada first introduced our old age security system. With longer lifespans, it is appropriate to consider that we may also need to work for more years – IF governments simultaneously adapt public policy to support greater work-life balance each year we are in the labour market, through the kinds of family policies called for above by Gen Squeeze.  We deduct half a point from the NDP on this criterion, because the party cuts off this conversation before it can begin.

Liberal party: The Liberals 2021 election platform again affirm their government’s decision to reverse the previous Conservative government’s decision to increase the age of eligibility for OAS for younger Canadians (p. 17).  Consistent with our decision regarding the NDP, we also deduct half a point from the Liberals for this criterion. 

2021 Family Affordability Analysis
2021 Platform Analysis: Family affordability
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