I got it — my first instalment of the Universal Child Care Benefit. All $100 of it.
I appreciate it from the most practical viewpoint — in effect, the government has paid for my baby’s monthly supply of diapers. And that’s definitely a financial help. But if I choose to look at it any other way, well, it’s not a heck of a lot of money now, is it?
The most appealing aspect for me is that the government sends me the cheque directly and I can do with it as I please, spending it as I see fit. One could argue that I could waste it on drugs, alcohol, or frivolous purchases, and that’s true. But I could also use it wisely for food, medicine and anything else my child needs.
It’s my choice, and in our democratic free country, we appreciate being able to make our own choices.
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But the point of the benefit is that the government has chosen to help parents out, financially, to care for their children. In the months leading up to this past January’s federal elections, there was great controversy about Stephen Harper’s promise that, if elected prime minister, he would introduce a family support policy that gives parents true choice in child care, by giving all families $1,200 a year per child under six years of age. The opponents, however, as well as some of the public, argued that while parents needed financial help, the money should go to subsidizing day care, and/or increasing public child-care facilities.
The decision to pay out, like the “baby bonus” of the past, even just $100 a month, feels good in my pocket. But Mr. Harper, you’re only kidding yourself if you think it’s help enough. Unfortunately, just as the cost of living increases, so does the cost of our children’s living.
Thankfully, we have a decent government-regulated maternity leave of 52 weeks, but some countries, like Sweden, get nearly twice as long and almost 2/3 more paid benefits. After that precious time with your newborn, many women must go back in to the workforce because they can’t afford not to. Well, if you’re working all day, then you need someone to look after your child. No matter what your socio-economic status.
And unless you have a retinue of responsible family members and friends to take turns caring for your baby, then you have to find an alternative. Babysitters, nannies and/or day care all cost money.
Moreover, those jobs have to be paid high enough to attract qualified people; and the fees required need to be able to cover the cost of safe premises with decent maintained equipment. Nobody’s going to feel comfortable leaving their child in an unsafe environment with incompetent staff.
So, for fear of sounding ungrateful, thank you Mr. Prime Minister for my child-care allowance, but can you dig deeper into your pockets?
For more information, visit www.universalchildcare.ca, or call 1-800-959-2221.