Family Policy Analysis — Methodology
Here’s how Gen Squeeze will assess and score federal parties’ 2019 platforms on the issue of family affordability

Table of Contents

Introduction


This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous analysis of federal party platforms on our four key issues of housing affordability, climate change, family affordability, and generational fairness in public finance.

Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform is along the journey to actually solving these big problems facing young people today.

We'll be straight with you, this kind of analysis is really tough. The timelines are tight, the issues are complex, our own understanding is inevitably imperfect, the parties don't always make it easy to figure out where they stand or what they mean, they are making announcements every day that risk making our analyses outdated, and it's tricky to distill a wide range of promises into some sense of the overall strength of parties' plans... but not impossible.

To that end, we've done our best to craft a rigorous, meaningful and non-partisan approach. Our evidence-informed policy positions on these issues should come through loud and clear, but we don't make recommendations about who to vote for, because (a) you may or may not agree with our positions or analysis; (b) we don't presume to tell you what you should care most about; and (c) we ultimately know that younger Canadians build additional power to influence politics the more we vote, regardless of who we vote for. We'll say it again: 

Both the spirit and substance of our analysis is neutral/non-partisan in that no part of it is intended to portray any individual party or candidate in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways or to direct people to vote for or against any specific parties or candidates. 

Our work simply depicts how party positions align with criteria selected in light of academic evidence about housing, family policy, climate change and intergenerational justice in public finance. Our findings may reveal that some parties align more, or less, with the evidence. Pointing this out doesn't reveal partisanship. It reveals our commitment to report on alignment with evidence. 

We have a genuine desire for ALL parties to improve the scores they receive according to our evidence-based evaluation system. We welcome parties to refine their promises during the campaign, and we will revise our evaluations accordingly. Success for Gen Squeeze is that all parties have equally strong platforms to solve the big problems facing younger generations so that voters ultimately choose between parties based on other criteria.

We are also open to critique of our platform analyses.  We welcome parties to contact Gen Squeeze directly to draw our attention to parts of their platforms that they believe are not evaluated properly according to the criteria we articulate, and we will adapt our evaluations accordingly as required by the evidence.

Basic Approach


Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of those promises, individually and in aggregate, by:

  • Publishing comprehensive, evidence-based frameworks that we believe encompass the commitments and categories of actions required to solve the big problems facing young Canadians, beginning with a clearly stated goal for each of our four key issues.

  • Translating each framework into a set of key criteria.

  • Assessing the degree to which each major party’s platform addresses the key criteria. The resulting analysis includes:

    • Detailed written commentary - to help explain what we perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of each stated policy, capturing as much nuance as time and capacity allows.

    • Summary tables and scores - recognizing that while detailed commentary is the best method to capture nuance, there is a need to distill our conclusions as much as possible if we hope to increase voter literacy among a general audience who may not have hours to read and digest our detailed commentary.

For this election period, we will be focusing our analysis on the four major parties who began the race with at least one MP who was elected as a representative of that party, and who are running a national slate of candidates: which includes the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party. 

 

Family Policy Framework


The following family affordability 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. 

Gen Squeeze Family Affordability Framework:


Key Criteria

We've translated our family policy framework into 12 key criteria, and we'll be assigning parties up to one point for their platform's response to each, as outlined in the following table. 

THE CRITERIA WE ARE LOOKING FOR IN PARTIES' HOUSING PLATFORMS

AVAILABLE POINTS

   
CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES  

Demonstrates a commitment to the principle of “Choice”, which 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. 

1
Demonstrates a commitment to the principle of “Equalitywhich means encouraging a more equal sharing of caregiver responsibilities in 2+ parent households, including 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. 1
Demonstrates a commitment to the principle of “Time with Family” which means embracing family time and family supports as a cornerstone of Canadian society  1
 

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO: STAY HOME WITH YOUR FAMILY

 

 

 

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. For example, our own modelling suggests a minimum benefit of $500/week (close to today’s maximum) and a maximum calculated as 80% of the parent’s annual earnings up to $67,000 – for a maximum weekly benefit of $1,031 (nearly double the current maximum value).*

1

Action to make parental leave benefits available to all households, meaning benefits should be 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 criteria.*

1

Action to promote shared parental 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.*

1

 *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

 

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 $40,000/year – the low-income cut-off for a family of four in our big cities.*

1

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.*

1

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.*

1

*The annual federal funding requirement for taking all three categories of action is estimated to be approximately $10 billion. In keeping with the Child Care Now advocacy position, Generation Squeeze will be looking for the next government to boost funding for child care by $1 billion each year over ten years to meet international benchmarks and reach the goal of affordable, high-quality, inclusive child care across Canada.

 

 

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO: BALANCE BOTH  
Action to incentivize shorter full-time work-norms, for example 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. 1
Action to incentivize flexible work hours, with an understanding that this area of policy still needs to develop specific recommendations.
1
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. 
1
   
TOTAL  12


Scoring Methodology 


For each key criteria
, parties receive a score that ranges 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


This five-point method was chosen because (a) it’s relatively simple, (b) it's capable of distinguishing between narrow/shallow responses and comprehensive responses to each criteria, especially the criteria that relate to broad policy categories, and (c) it allows us to subtract points where the evidence suggests a particular policy or group of policies put forward by a party is likely to exacerbate the problem/take us further away from the goal

The limitations of this method include:

  • It leans towards awarding comprehensiveness over degree of depth; e.g. (a) the five point scale doesn't allow much splitting of hairs between similar promises expressed with different levels of implementation detail, and (b) a platform that "doubles-down" on action on any given criteria (i.e. goes beyond what would be required to earn a full point) won't be awarded extra points for that extra effort, though this would be acknowledged in the detailed commentary

  • The awarding of points inevitably involves a degree of informed subjectivity
     

Additional Notes on Framework Design 

Our family policy 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. Our policy recommendations are informed especially by research published in the following publications:  

  • A series of 10 family policy reports – one for each province – titled “Does Canada Work for All Generations?”, prepared by Kershaw P. and L. Anderson (2011), published by the Human Early Learning Partnership at:  http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/family-policy/resources-and-reports/ 

  • Kershaw, P., et al. (2010). "The Economic Costs of Early Vulnerability in Canada." Canadian Journal of Public Health-Revue Canadienne De Sante Publique 101(Supplement 3): S8-S12.

  • Kershaw, P., et al. (2009). 15 by 15:  A Comprehensive Policy Framework for Early Human Capital Investment in BC. Vancouver, University of British Columbia, Human Early Learning Partnership.

  • Kershaw, P. and L. Anderson (2009). "Is a pan-Canadian system of early child development possible?  Yes, when we redress what ails Canadian culture." Paediatrics and Child Health 14(10): 685-688.

  • Kershaw, P. (2006). "Carefair: Choice, Duty and the Distribution of Care." Social Politics 13(3): 341-371.

  • Kershaw, P. (2005). Carefair:  rethinking the responsibilities and rights of citizenship. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press.

The middle component of our family policy framework (a system of universal child care) aligns closely with and draws from the work of e.g. the national Child Care Now (https://timeforchildcare.ca/) movement and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (http://www.cccabc.bc.ca/ ; and https://www.10aday.ca/). 

 

This Analysis is Non-Partisan 


Our vision of a Canada that works for all generations is a long-term vision. To achieve and maintain that vision, we need to bridge ideological and political divides in our society, and to find common ground amongst a diversity of people and perspectives. That’s why Gen Squeeze’s research and advocacy activities are designed to help all political parties and levels of government in the design of policy capable of achieving our vision.

At any given time, any given political party or government may be more or less responsive, and more or less circumstantially aligned with various aspects of our work. However, any relative responsiveness or circumstantial alignment in no way reflects an intention on our part to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, specific parties or candidates.

The intention of our 2019 federal election analysis is (a) to help all parties understand where there may be gaps in their current plans, (b) to help voters understand the strength and weaknesses of individual policies, and (c) to help voters understand the overall strength of each party’s plan on each of four key issues, in terms of each plan’s assessed ability to solve the associated problem; i.e. to help voters go into the ballot box as informed as possible on our four key issues.

We neutrally assign an aggregate score for each party’s plan on each of the four issue areas NOT because we hope to point voters in one direction or another, but because we believe many voters will benefit from having access to a sense of the overall strength of the various promises that have been made.

The frameworks and goals, key criteria, commentary and scores all reflect and distill many individual evidence-based policy positions of Generation Squeeze, and audiences should come away with a good sense of where we stand on the issues and how our positions compare to the positions of the major parties, but our detailed commentary and scores are not intended to portray individual parties or candidates in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways.

  • In summary, we approach all of our work – including our 2019 federal election activities – in the true spirit of non-partisanship.

This Analysis is Evidence-Based 


Gen Squeeze’s research activities are coordinated by Dr. Paul Kershaw, who is a tenured Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. 

By virtue of Dr. Kershaw’s professional responsibilities, and Gen Squeeze’s own commitment to organizational credibility and rigour, our public policy positions are rooted in our understanding of the best available evidence. 

This means that from time to time, our positions and policy interpretations will change, either because we’ve published or been made aware of new evidence, or because our understanding of existing evidence has been enhanced by a new perspective(s). 

No one person or organization ever has “the full picture,” which is why we admit our imperfect understanding, embrace nuance, and continually strive to identify and correct our own blind spots through collaboration. 

  • In summary, we approach all of our work — including our 2019 federal election activities — in the true spirit of openness, and evidence-based dialogue and decision-making.

Gen Squeeze is a Registered Third Party 


Because our platform analysis will be inherently taking a number of positions on issues with which candidates and parties may be associated, and spending more than $500 on paid advertising to help distribute this analysis, we are registering as a third party election advertisers during the 2019 federal election.

 

 

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