Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Child care "choice" is no choice at all

Stephen Harper is a diehard economic libertarian. He thinks that social programs only hinder economic prosperity, and has referred to Canada as a "Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term."

This should come as no surprise to anyone. He is, of course, the former head of the National Citizens Coalition, which was originally founded to fight the establishment of universal publicly-funded medicare. Murray Dobbin has done a great job of pointing out the hypocrisy of Harper's statements during the federal election, which directly contradicted statements he made years -- even months -- before.

We've heard a lot about "alternatives" and "flexibility" in the last few weeks. But don't be fooled, these terms are masking the ideology that Harper really believes in: individualism over collective rights, wealth over social justice, profit over people.

Take his so-called "choice in childcare" program. It's not a program, it's a tax cut. It's an outright rejection of a national childcare program that propagates the notion that women should be home taking care of their kids. This also implies that all women should be married (to men I assume, given the Conservative position on gay marriage), and it's tough shit for anyone who actually has to work to make ends meet or -- horrors -- doesn't have a spouse.

But don't take it from me. Take it from new Human Resources Minister Diane Finley who said "There have been many studies that show that the best people to raise children are the parents." Yeah, well there have been many studies that show that hungry children don't thrive, and that adequate health care, housing and early childhood education are preconditions for proper brain development and socialization.

And the worst thing is that this tax credit would do nothing for people who are struggling to raise their kids while on social assistance. How on earth can women return to the workforce, if there is no affordable (and safe) place to take their kids? As of yesterday, the media was reporting that the Ontario government would likely roll back the child care benefit from social assistance cheques. In other words, no extra money for the people who are really poor and could actually use some extra cash to pay for childcare or food!

Although I don't hold up much hope for the Conservatives changing course, click here to sign a petition to stand up for universal child care.

And to learn more about an Ontario-wide campaign to raise social assistance rates, check out OCAP's site.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

It is always curious how choice, once the foundation of the Left, has been appropriated and transformed by the Right.

Whether in Child Care, or for much longer in the debates over Medicare, who could oppose giving "choice" to "consumers" of healthcare or the ability for them--us?--to use our own money the way they--we?--want to?

As Thomas Walkom in The Toronto Star has recently pointed out, again--and as many others have pointed out through the decades this one-sided 'debate' has been imposed upon us--the by now not unexpected effect of the elimination of choice for the rest of us is the inevitable result.

When, as Klein is now proposing, doctors may work in both the public and private sector they will tend to favour their private clients--they get paid more.

As they do in England and New Zealand--and all other places where mixed public-private systems are established.

It is not permitted, in what passes for public opinion, to advocate collective solutions for collective problems.

Child Care and Healthcare are only the most obvious.

Harper, and all those who support this perspective, are waging class war--and all the more successfully because they have denied it is class war, with the connivance of the media.

It is not a matter of money; it is a matter of access.

'Choices' for the wealthy mean no Choice for the rest of us.