You’ve probably heard all of the parties speak about some key issues for families in this election – especially child care, which is generating lots of promised actions and investments.
But how do you know if the actions to which parties are committing will really move us towards the goal of all Canadians being able to afford to start a family, if they choose?
Gen Squeeze can help!
Our Voter’s Guide makes meaning of party promises by assessing the degree to which each platform advances the evidence-based actions needed to address family affordability challenges squeezing younger Canadians. Then we share the results of these analyses with you, in summary scorecards, and in detailed commentary. Gen Squeeze doesn’t tell you who to vote for – but we do want to give you the information you need to vote informed.
Historic action on child care
This is indeed an historic election for child care. Three of the four major parties – the Liberals, Greens and NDP – are proposing massive improvements to child care in Canada. These parties have converged on creating an affordable, high quality, and universal $10 a day child care system, an idea that Gen Squeeze started championing over a decade ago.
The Liberal party allocated the dollars required for $10 a day child care in its 2021 Budget, and reiterates this promise in its election platform. The NDP and Greens affirm they will allocate enough money to sustain the Liberal $10 a day Budget commitment. The planned level of investment is the real deal, finally bringing to life a vision for child care 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!).
If you don’t want child care to cost another mortgage- or rent-sized payment, the system that the Liberals, NDP and Greens commit to building will bring down these costs in the years ahead.
The Conservatives are outliers on child care. They recommend that the federal government convert its current Child Care Expense Deduction into a Tax Credit, that families with child care expenses could claim to cover a portion of their out of pocket costs.
The Conservative tax credit approach would invest less than 10% of what the other parties are promising – meaning that it would deliver substantially less money to families struggling to cover child care costs. A tax credit also can’t help advance the goal of building a child care system that delivers high quality care, with pay equity wages for early childhood educators. So while the Conservative platform does include promising language on child care, the concrete actions being proposed – and the limited budget allocation that backs them up – will amount to little more than a “status quo” approach.
Silence on other family policy
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 on the table are historic – and merit lots of attention. But evidence confirms that there are other key policy issues that contribute to unaffordability for families which should be addressed, as outlined in Gen Squeeze's family policy framework.
None of the parties give much attention to parental leave policy in their election platforms. This is a weakness, because our current leave system has three problems:
- The benefit value is too low, and imposes a significant financial squeeze on many families when they take time to care for a newborn.
- The leave system risks incentivizing women to take longer leaves (over 12 months) which can in turn reinforce the glass ceiling and pay inequity for many women. This second problem is linked to the third…
- 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. We could accomplish this by allocating 1/3 of the leave period exclusively for dads, 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.
These is also insufficient discussion in Canadian politics about improving work-life balance more generally.
The large gap between housing costs and local earnings means that both parents have to work in many households, to cover basic living costs. This challenge is magnified for lone parents. We need our political leaders to talk more about how to better spread out the time we spend in paid work across our working lives, so that we can achieve greater balance each week or year we are in the labour market.
This wouldn’t necessarily mean less time in the labour market overall. The reality is that Canadians are living 7-10 years longer than we were when retirement income policies were designed – and when we set expectations about the age to which we expect most people to work. This strains our retirement income system – and risks its sustainability. Spreading our work time better across our working lives is a big deal, one that we need our political leaders to talk about – but to date in this election, no party is raising these issues.
Gen Squeeze’s non-partisan, evidence-based analysis concludes that actions proposed in the NDP and the Liberal platforms will move Canada the furthest along the path to making it affordable to start a family. This does not mean that we endorse either party, or that we recommend that you vote for them. What it means is that – among the 4 major parties campaigning for your vote – NDP and Liberal proposals align most closely with what the evidence tells us we need to do. Success for Gen Squeeze is that all parties have equally strong platforms on family affordability.