New federal election study on family policy
Lab at UBC provides comprehensive analysis of party promises about family affordability

For immediate release

Led by Dr. Paul Kershaw, the Generation Squeeze Research and Knowledge Translation Lab, located in the University of BC School of Population & Public Health, is releasing the next installment of its Federal Election Voters Guide – a new study that examines the family policy promises made by the Conservatives, Greens, Liberals and NDP.

Historic action on child care

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, bringing to life a vision for child care first proposed in the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women. This investment level is sufficient to ensure that child care does not cost another mortgage- or rent-sized payment 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, which 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:

  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 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...
  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. 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.

The full report, including an infographic summary, can be found here. The methodology for the study can be found here, including our commitment to non-partisan analysis.

The Generation Squeeze Voter’s Guide does not point voters to one party or another, because we ultimately want all parties to design platforms that work for all generations. But we do believe many voters will benefit from having access to information on the overall strength of the various promises that parties make, relative to academic evidence about what is required to solve big problems squeezing younger generations. That’s what this analysis of climate change provides.

The platform study will be updated during the election if/when additional relevant information about party promises becomes publicly available. We welcome parties contacting the Lab to suggest refinements to our analyses in light of information that the party has made publicly available.

For media inquiries, contact:

Dr. Paul Kershaw, University of BC policy professor, and Founder, Generation Squeeze
[email protected] 604 761 4583.

Download PDF version of release.

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New federal election study on family policy
New federal election study on family policy
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