Ontario Voter's Guide: Family affordability
Gen Squeeze's analysis of the 2022 Ontario election family affordability 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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Family affordability scorecard

Table of Contents

UPDATED May 26, 2022 @ 11:33

 

Introduction

This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous assessment of Ontario provincial 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 Ontarians, and how these problems help prop up a broken generational system.

Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of these promises.  We do this by evaluating the degree to which each platform advances each of the evidence-based actions needed to address key issues sustaining generational unfairness.  Please visit our methodology page for more information on our approach to assessing party platforms.

On this page, you will find:

  • Summary score table: The family policy 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 advance the actions identified in our solutions framework on family affordability
  • 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 unfavorable light.  Our goal is to help voters be as informed as possible about the positions of all of the parties on big issues for generational fairness in Ontario.  Please visit our methodology page for more information on our approach to platform analysis and our commitments to be non-partisan and evidence based.

Punchlines

No party is doing enough to ensure that starting a family is affordable for all Ontarians

Gen Squeeze worked with academic and community experts to produce a comprehensive policy framework to address family affordability.  The framework points to 12 different action items.  None of the main parties in the 2022 Ontario election addresses all 12.  As a result, there is reason to remain concerned that some Ontario families will continue to face hurdles in accessing the time, money and services needed to afford enough time at home and time at work when they have children.

Some platforms align more with the evidence than others

  • The Liberal platform leads the way in addressing 6 of our 12 criteria for family affordability.
  • The NDP promise to address 3.5 of the action items.
  • The Conservatives promise to address 2.5 of the action items.
  • The Greens promise to address just 0.5 of the action items.

What separates the parties?

Time with family and parental leave

Our analysis reveals that the Liberal platform aligns better with the evidence in significant part because it includes actions to address both the need for affordable and high quality child care services, as well as improved parental leave to support families with more time at home.  The Liberals stand out as the only party addressing parental leave in the 2022 Ontario election.

What unites the parties?

Making child care affordable!

All parties commit to uphold the federal-provincial agreement on affordable child care, which will see fees reduced to an average of $10 a day. 

The branding of $10 a day child care was borne in the Gen Squeeze Knowledge Mobilization Lab – so it’s exciting to see concrete evidence that our investments in framing, language testing and knowledge mobilization have paid off!  Implementation of $10 a day on a national scale is a clear victory for families, as well as for the many individuals and organizations advocating for accessible and affordable child care over decades – Gen Squeeze included.  The savings for families with kids will make a significant contribution to easing the squeeze faced by younger Canadians, for whom child care is currently another rent or mortgage sized payment.

That being said, Gen Squeeze’s recommendation on fees is that $10 a day should be the maximum, and not just the average – with no fee for low-income households.  No party meets this threshold, so there remains work to be done to make child care affordable and accessible to all Ontario families. 

Inattention to policy supports for work-life balance

No party pays is engaging enough on options to support increased work-life balance for families after parental leave is over. 

While the NDP and Liberals commit to exploring 4-day work weeks, they propose only preliminary steps in this direction. 

In the wake of the first years of the pandemic, parties are taking little action to build on the additional opportunities for flexibility in employment, or the uneven way in which flexibility has been made available to different groups of workers during COVID. 

Nor are parties considering the connection between years of work and income supports in retirement.  It’s concerning that policy proposals in these areas are absent as Ontario and Canada confront a rapidly aging population, with a declining number of workers contributing tax dollars to cover the costs of medical care and public pensions for the aging population. 

Approach to Platform Analysis

For the Ontario election, we focus our analysis on the three parties that elect representatives to fill the majority of the seats in the provincial legislature: the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Liberal Party.  We also include parties that elected at least one MPP who ran in the last election under the banner of that party.  This means that our analysis includes the Ontario Green Party.  We do not include parties with no representatives elected specifically as members of that 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.

 

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 about the rationale for our scoring approach and its limitations by reading our detailed methodology page.

Summary score table

The table below summarizes the scores of Conservative, NDP, Liberal and Green 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 a desktop/laptop computer. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Family Affordability Criteria

Party scores

CPC

LPC

NDP

GRN

 CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

 

 

 

 

1

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

0.5

1

0

0

2

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

0

1

0.5

-0.5

3

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

0.5

0.5

0.5

0

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO STAY HOME WITH YOUR FAMILY

 

 

 

 

4

Do the platforms dial up parental leave benefit amounts? 

0

0.5

0

0

5

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

0

0.5

0

0

6

Do the platforms further promote shared parental leave? 

0

0.5

0

0

 MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO GO TO WORK

 

 

 

 

7

Do the platforms dial down child care service fees?  

0.5

0.5

0.5

0.5

8

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

0.5

0.5

1

0.5

9

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

0.5

0.5

0.5

0

 MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO BALANCE BOTH

 

 

 

 

10

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

0

0.5

0.5

0

11

Do the platforms incentivize flexible work hours?

0

0

0

0

12

Do the platforms acknowledge longer work lives?

0

0

0

0

 

TOTAL SCORE (out of a possible 12)

2.5

6.0

3.5

0.5

 

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

2.1

5.0

2.9

0.4

Detailed commentary

 

CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

 

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

 

This principle refers to abandoning traditional divides between supporting families at home (e.g. by offering financial support in the form of benefit payments, tax breaks, etc.) vs. supporting families to go to work (e.g. through a universal system of affordable, quality child care). This principle concerns giving families opportunities to more successfully balance both, in line with their needs and preferences.

All parties in Ontario commit to moving forward with $10 a day child care, alongside federal contributions. These new investments significantly move the needle on supporting families to have time at work by expanding access to affordable, high quality care options for kids (more on this under criterion 7). However, commitments that support families to find time at home are less uniform.

The Liberals are the only party that includes parental leave in the party’s election platform, committing to top-up leave benefits, and extend access to leave to more families (more on this under criteria 4-6). In combination with proposed Liberal action on child care, we therefore award a full point on the principle of choice.

The 2022 Conservative budget features the existing Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses tax credit, which aims to provide “families with the flexibility they need to choose the child care options that work best for them” (p. 104). Consistent with acknowledging the importance of choice within the child care space, the budget also states that “Ontario’s licensed child care spaces will include a mix of not‐for‐profit and for‐profit settings to provide families with choice and flexibility” (p. 107). These commitments make clear that Conservatives recognize the value of choice, but it’s surprising that there is nothing comparable in the budget regarding support for families to choose more time at home – particularly since this tends to be a conservative family policy pillar in Canada. We award the Conservatives half a point.

The NDP and Green platforms don’t refer to the importance of helping families have choices available to help balance time at home with time in the workplace. For this reason, we assign no points to either party.

Back to summary score table
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.

The Ontario Liberals note in their platform that their investments in families are intended to “make it easier for more fathers to take extended parental leave” (p. 72).  The Liberals also recognize that women faced greater “strain” balancing work and family over the pandemic (p. 11), and were more likely “to have to drop out of the workforce because of limited child care” (p. 68).  Although there is more that could be said on this principle, explicit recognition of leave for fathers is novel, and merits a full point.

Although the NDP platform includes an entire chapter on equity (with a subsection on gender equity), there is no discussion of promoting equity in the division of caregiving responsibilities.  The NDP acknowledge the disproportionate burdens women – and especially racialized women – have faced in the pandemic, with “many forced to give up their jobs or to work double duty parenting and supervising their children’s online learning” (p. 69).  The NDP also commit to applying a “gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) system to ensure that all government programs policies, and legislation are inclusive of all Ontarians” (p. 69).  Recognizing that these efforts broadly align with the intention behind the principle of equity, we charitably award the NDP half a point.

The Conservative party receives no points for this criterion.  Their 2022 Budget makes no reference to supporting a more equal division of caregiving responsibilities through either child care or parental supports.  The word equality does not appear once in all 268 pages.

The Green party platform includes a chapter on “an equitable Ontario” (p. 22) which outlines commitments to racial, gender, linguistic equity, as well as equity for Ontarians with disabilities.  However, this chapter does not address equity in caregiving responsibilities, or propose any policies to advance this goal. In addition, the Green platform includes language that reinforces the idea that child care is a program that responds primarily to the needs of women.  The Greens commit to working with the federal government “to ensure continued funding for universal access to high-quality, $10-a-day childcare in all communities so women have more opportunity to re-enter the workforce” (p. 23 emphasis added).  While it is true that caregiving work does still disproportionately fall to women, it’s problematic to describe new child care investments as a tool that will only support women’s labour force participation – rather than referring to facilitating equity, choice and work-family balance for all parents.  For these reasons, we deduct half a point from the Green party on this criterion.

Back to summary score table

 

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.

No party refers directly to the importance of time with family, though most include some commitments that can be understood as linked to this principle.

The Liberal platform includes commitments on both parental leave and child care, noting that “[w]e’ve heard from new parents who want to stay home with their kids longer” and pointing to the “strain” on some working parents “especially women” when it comes to juggling obligations to both work and family (p. 11).  As the only party to reference supports for parents to have time at home and to go to work, and to include specific commitments in each areas, we award the Liberals a half point.

The 2022 Conservative Budget speaks to the goals of making Ontario “the best place to live, work and raise a family” (p. 60).  Other language concerning time pressures speaks primarily to time savings tied to Conservative commitments to transportation and transit infrastructure.  We (charitably) award the Conservatives half a point.

The NDP (p. 5) refer specifically to financial pressures on younger Canadians causing them to consider “putting off starting a family”.  The platform also acknowledges that high child care fees mean that “for many parents, particularly women, it is cheaper to stay at home than return to work” (p. 8).  As financial feasibility and supports are key to realizing the principle of time with family, the NDP receive half a point.

The Green party receives no points on this criterion.  Despite commitments to reducing child care fees (discussed in detail under criterion 7) the Green platform does not include any language that links these actions to the importance of time with family..

Back to summary score table

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.

Platforms for the Greens, NDP and Conservatives don’t mention parental leave at all. So they receive no points for this criterion.

The Liberals propose to enhance the benefits available under the extended 18-month parental leave option currently offered by the federal government as part of Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program. Under current rules, parents taking 18 months of leave receive 33% of their average weekly earnings over this period (up to a maximum of $383 per week). In contrast, parents who opt for 12 months of leave receive 55% of their average weekly earnings (up to a maximum of $638 per week).

The Ontario Liberals are promising to cover 6 months of an 18 month leave at the 55% wage replacement rate, topping up the 33% rate covered by the feds. This will importantly ramp up the income available to new parents at a time when the costs they face are particularly high – but still won’t reach Gen Squeeze’s recommended benefit levels. The investment is projected to cost $300 million over 4 years (p. 2 of Liberal Platform Costing), qualifying it as a significant investment in improving parental leave. We give the Liberals half a point on this criterion.

Back to summary score table

 

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. 

Following from the analysis of criterion 4, the fact that the Greens, NDP and Conservatives don’t mention parental leave once in their platforms also means that they don’t speak to making leave more inclusive of different household and family types.  Each of these 3 parties receives no points on this criterion. 

The Liberal platform commits to “work[ing] with the federal government to fill gaps for new parents who don’t qualify for EI” (p. 11).  However, it’s unclear who the Liberals have in mind here, since EI eligibility is already relatively broad, and has been extended to cover those who are self-employed if they opt in.  Since more information is needed to fully assess this Liberal commitment, we (charitably) assign them just half a point on this criterion for at least acknowledging the importance of accessibility to parental leave.

Back to summary score table

 

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/them.

The Liberal platform states that the party wants to “make it easier for more fathers to take extended parental leave” (p. 72).  This is a laudable goal, as discussed above under the principle of equality.  Unfortunately, the significance of this commitments is undermined by the fact that the platform offers no additional details, leaving Ontarians with little indication of how the Liberals plan to realize this promise.  However, since increasing the benefit value may make it more affordable for higher earners (still often men) to take more leave, we award the Liberals a half point.

Unsurprisingly if you’ve read our analyses for criteria 4 and 5, the other parties propose no action to support shared parental leave – part of the overall absence of parental leave from their platforms.  As a result, no points are awarded to the Greens, NDP or Conservatives 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).

Back to summary score table

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. 

Ontario’s Conservative government and the Government of Canada signed an Early Learning and Child Care agreement in March 2022, which will see the feds commit $13.2 billion by 2026-27 to help lower fees to $10 a day.  All of the major political parties in Ontario support this $10 a day child care program and will continue with its implementation if elected. 

The branding of $10 a day child care was borne in the Gen Squeeze Knowledge Mobilization Lab – so it’s exciting to see concrete evidence that our investments in framing and language testing have paid off!  Implementation of $10 a day on a national scale is a clear victory for families, as well as for the many individuals and organizations advocating for accessible and affordable child care over decades – Gen Squeeze included.  The savings for families with kids will make a significant contribution to easing the squeeze faced by younger Canadians, for whom child care is currently another rent or mortgage sized payment.

That being said, Gen Squeeze’s recommendation on fees is that $10 a day should be the MAXIMUM, and not just the average – with no fee for low-income households.  Gen Squeeze argues that Ontario (and the rest of Canada) should apply the same logic to child care as we do to public education and medical care – namely, that more affluent individuals are asked to pay more via taxes, not via higher fees at the door.  Alas, none of the parties in Ontario is committing to a $10 max daily fee.  Nor are they explicit about whether they will eliminate fees for low income Ontario families.  So while we are excited to see positive progress in reducing fees for Ontario families, there remains more to be done to ensure that child care is affordable and accessible. For these reasons we award each party only half a point.  

The Conservatives will begin to reduce fees by up to 25% starting in April 2022 via retroactive rebates, beginning with participating licensed child care for children 5 and under.  By the end of 2022, fees are promised to drop by 50% on average. The Conservative Budget commits to Ontario reaching an average of $10 a day child care by September 2025.  On top of federal contributions, the Conservatives are investing an additional $395 million to cover the cost of inflation, as well as $14 billion in capital grants over 10 years to build and renew child care spaces. 

In 2019, the Conservative government introduced – and subsequently topped up – the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) refundable tax credit. For families with incomes under $150k, this credit covers up to 75% of eligible child care expenses, with the amount of coverage declining as income rises.  The Conservatives note that the tax credit was adopted in response to the recognition that “[d]ifferent families have different child care needs and are looking for flexibility” (p. 109). This kind of language typically refers to the fact that a tax credit can be claimed by parents who use any type of paid child care – it’s not confined to centre-based licensed child care.  This can be an advantage for those who work irregular hours and may be less likely to find child care in a regulated centre.  However, tax credits do little to expand the amount of child care available (a lack of spaces being a key challenge for parents), or 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).  For more on child care tax credits vs universal programming, see our earlier blog.

In the 2022 Budget, the Conservatives project that CARE claimants will receive about $1,250 on average “before accounting for the impact of the recent Canada‐Ontario Early Learning and Child Care Agreement” (p. 109).  As child care fees drop to $10 a day on average, the value of this tax credit for families will also decline, since it is based on child care expenses incurred.

The Conservatives also commit in Budget 2022 to “address increasing demand for child care by creating 86,000 new, high‐quality child care spaces” (p. 107).  This figure does include more than 15,000 new spaces created by the Conservative government since 2019 – but it is still a meaningful investment in new supply.  Consistent with framing around the tax credit, the Conservatives allow for new licensed child care spaces to “include a mix of not‐for‐profit and for‐profit settings to provide families with choice and flexibility” (p. 107).  Studies of child care quality in Quebec have found that for-profit facilities tend to have lower quality care than not-for-profit facilities.

The Liberal party proposes making child care fee reductions retroactive to January 1, 2022 “giving families back an average of $2,750 per child” (p. 11).  The Liberals also promise to “move quickly to reduce fees for before and after-school care by over half to $10 a day by September 2022” (p. 11), costing a total of $1.6 B over four years.  This commitment to making care for school age children more affordable is notable, since it is outside of the scope of the present Ontario-Government of Canada agreement.

The Liberal platform also includes a commitment to creating 30,000 new jobs for early childhood educators and other child care staff, along with commitments to enhance their pay and benefits (see criterion 8 below).  Although this jobs commitment isn’t supplemented by explicit language about expanding the number of child care spaces, access to enough qualified staff is a key prerequisite for expansion.  The (lack of ) availability of child care spaces – especially at licensed and regular facilities – is well documented as a persistent challenge for parents in Ontario, and across Canada.

The Liberals promise to increase the CARE tax credit by 50%, to an average of $2,000 for families who claim it – so similar caveats apply about the pros and cons of a tax credit approach, as well as the value of the credit decreasing as child care fees are reduced.  Similar to the Conservatives, the Liberals suggest that the tax credit is important alongside non-profit child care spaces “for parents working shifts and non-traditional hours” who may chose caregivers outside of licensed child care (p. 11).

The Liberals specifically commit to ensuring “Indigenous child care needs are met” (p. 77). This presumably implies a commitment to culturally appropriate care, but no details or cost estimates are provided.  The Liberal platform also points to the importance of “flexible and inclusive child care” including “for diverse families and for kids with special needs” (p. 11).

The NDP commit to “work with the federal government to achieve $10 a-day faster” (p. 8), though what this means is unspecified, making its significance difficult to assess.  Like the Liberals, the NDP indicate that the party will “immediately begin to reduce fees for before and after school child care” (p. 9), but also like the Liberals the details are lacking on this promise.

The NDP explicitly commits to a non-profit model for growing child care in Ontario, and recognizes the need to increase the availability of spaces.  The party does not provide a target for the number to be created, instead promising to “work with the federal government to build sufficient regulated child care services needed to accommodate families’ needs in all Ontario communities” (p. 9).  To ensure sufficient staffing for these spaces, the NDP indicate they will “put in place a province-wide strategy to guarantee expansion of public and non-profit child care” plus “stable base funding for licensed home child care providers” (p. 9).

The NDP platform doesn’t speak to the CARE tax credit, so our assumption is that the party plans to retain the existing structure and level of investment.  The NDP platform speaks to the need to provide “high-quality inclusive child care options” including for “all children, whether they have a disability, are racialized, or are a member of a northern, rural, or Indigenous community” (p. 8).  This commitment is not described in more detail, and no specific funds are identified in the costed platform.

The Green party platform reiterates the importance of working with the federal government “to ensure continued funding for universal access to high-quality, $10-a-day childcare in all communities” (p. 23).  However, compared to the other parties, child care is not as strong an area of focus for the Greens.  The platform includes no discussion of non-profit vs for-profit care models, licensed home-based care, or the need for adequate spaces and staffing.  The Greens also don’t speak to the need for care to be inclusive of children with different needs, or culturally appropriate child care for Indigenous families.

Back to summary score table

 

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. 

Happily, improving the compensation of child care workers is an issue on which all Ontario parties agree.  The Greens refer to providing “fair wages of at least $25 per hour” (p. 23), but say nothing about workplace protections and benefits, appropriate supports, or expanded staffing. The Greens therefore receive just half a point.

The NDP make the same commitment as the Greens on remuneration, promising to “immediately increase the standard wage for child care workers to $25 per hour for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs), and $20 per hour for all other program staff” (p. 8).  However, the NDP platform also speaks to bringing in “a Workforce Strategy to make jobs in child care good careers. This will involve developing and implementing a wage grid and decent work standards, including benefits and a pension, daily on-site paid planning, paid professional development, and a strategy to help child care workers upgrade their qualifications” (p. 8).  The NDP include licensed home child care in their thinking, noting that in addition to the stable funding mentioned above, providers will be offered “the option of contributing to a pension and a benefits plan” (p. 7).  We give the party a full point for this criterion. 

The Liberal platform is less specific on remuneration, but does commit to “giving these workers better pay and benefits and bringing in a compensation grid in line with full-day kindergarten” (p. 11).  The Liberals also add the promise of free tuition for all ECE programs at Ontario colleges, and “improving recruitment, retention and professional development opportunities for lifelong learning” (p. 11).  What the latter entails is unspecified.  We award the Liberals a half point. 

The Conservatives make a similar commitment to the Liberals, indicating that they will “improve compensation for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs)” and “support the expansion and recruitment of new early childhood educators” (p. 107).  As no specific wage or hiring targets are included, they receive only half a point.

Back to summary score table

 

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

 

This criterion is informed by research showing child care staff:child ratios need to be considerably lower than in elementary schools.

All parties are silent on ensuring the staff:child ratios required for high quality child care.  

The Conservatives and NDP point to the need to expand both child care spaces and jobs in the child care sector – commitments that could support appropriate staff:child ratios.  The Liberal platform includes a specific recruitment target of 30,000 child care workers.  Increased staff is an important precursor to adding more spaces, but the Liberals don’t explicitly reference expanding the number of available spaces – which is notable given that they do mention expansion of spaces in other sectors, like long-term care. 

All three of these parties receive half a point on this criterion in recognition of the fact that they make commitments that could help create the preconditions for strong staff:child ratios – but more details and adequate monitoring are needed to ensure appropriate follow through.

The Greens are not only silent on ratios, but also on additional child care spaces and additional child care workers.  They receive no points.

Back to summary score table

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHOOSE TO BALANCE BOTH

 

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

 

This criterion speak to supporting greater work-life balance after parental leave by reducing expectations around what we understand as full-time work hours. To make it less costly for businesses to use employees up to 35 hours per week – and more costly for hours thereafter – we can adapt overtime, Employment Insurance, and Canada Public Pension premiums paid by employers. 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 one 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 could be used to ensure that 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.

Platforms for both the NDP and the Liberals reference experimenting with a four day work weeks.  The NDP commit to enacting “the NDP’s Four Day Work Week Act, first introduced in 2021. The Bill would implement a four-day work week pilot project in Ontario, to be established for one year for a section of the province’s workers” (p. 30).  The details and cost of this commitment aren’t captured in the NDP platform, but the proposed 2021 legislation states that the Act “establishes the Four-Day Work Week Commission, which will develop recommendations on how to implement a pilot project designed to determine the effectiveness of a four-day work week in Ontario”.  The Act was a response to pandemic pressures: “increased worker burnout, leading to poor physical and mental health outcomes” and “the need for greater work-life balance, including more time for family and for rest.”  For drawing attention to how changing work norms intersects with work-life balance, we assign the NDP half a point.

The Liberals are also motivated to consider changing work norms as a result of the pandemic, during which “people showed remarkable flexibility, innovation and resolve” yet also “felt more depressed, anxious and overwhelmed” (p. 39).  Given this context, the Liberals describe adopting a four day work week as a change “that experts say could boost quality of life, work-life balance and much needed relief without a loss in productivity” (p. 39).  Concretely, the steps that Liberals propose to take over the next two years are working with “businesses and labour groups of all types to design and evaluate the model” (p. 39), and their costed platform puts $10 million behind “consultation and study.”  We award the Liberals a half point.

The Greens and Conservatives receive no points on this criterion.  Neither the Green platform not the 2022 Conservative budget mention changing norms around full time work.

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

 

Greater flexibility in work hours is an underdeveloped area of policy innovation and action in Ontario – and in Canada more generally – though the pandemic and resulting remote and telework has increased momentum around these 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 have 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. Ontarians 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. 

None of the parties speaks directly to increasing flexibility in work hours as part of a commitment to greater work-life balance, or to better support working families – though NDP and Liberal proposals to examine the potential of a four day work week (discussed above under criterion 10) could also be understood as supporting increased work flexibility.  However, as these plans remain nascent, concrete commitments remain lacking.  No party receives any points on this criterion. 

One policy area related to work flexibility is party commitments on gig, contract and piece employees.  In this case, all parties propose various ways to ramp up labour protections for these workers, for whom ‘flexibility’ has tended to be accompanied by greater precarity, lower wages, and fewer workplace benefits.  Proposed measures includes “better access to benefits and protections” (Liberal platform, p. 39); “first‐in‐Canada foundational rights and core protections” (Conservative Budget, p. 65); a portable “basket of benefits – including dental care and vision coverage – that meet a standard of quality coverage (NDP platform, p. 29); and “a gig workers Bill of Rights” and a “portable extended health benefits” program (Green platform, p. 26).  These measures are likely to be of particular importance for younger people, who are more likely to be employed in these types of work.

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

 

Canadians are living 7-10 years longer we did when Canada first created public retirement income security programs. Indeed, new Census data just confirmed the fast pace at which Canada’s population is aging. 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.

In this context, Gen Squeeze recommendations for greater work-life balance during our years as paid workers should be considered hand in hand with decisions about the age at which Canadians become eligible for old age security (OAS). It may be appropriate to expect (many) younger Canadians to work longer before claiming OAS – but this is contingent on ensuring that these longer work-lives help to pay for public programs required to facilitate greater work-life balance during each year of employment. In effect, this means supporting the kinds of family policies called for above by Gen Squeeze.

No party speaks to this criterion in its platform materials, so we award no points.  Happily, no party includes commitments that mitigate against making progress on this criterion either, which has been a problem in recent federal elections.

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Ontario Voter's Guide: Family affordability
Ontario Voter's Guide: Family affordability
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Ontario Votes 2022
Ontario Votes 2022