The one with the rant about the child care allowance

by DaniGirl on July 5, 2006 · 23 comments

in Uncategorized

Starting this month, the Canadian government will be doling out the cheques for the new Universal Child Care Benefit. That’s the $100-a-month credit, for each child under age six, that the Tory government seems to think gives families some sort of ‘choice in child care.’ Right.

I have to be careful here. The prime minister is my boss, and I don’t think it’s too clever to crap where I sleep, so to speak. So read these words not as written as a civil servant, but as ranted by a working mom of two preschool boys.

I’ve always thought that the $100 Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) allowance is nothing but a practically meaningless token amount. And it annoys the hell out of me that it is so inequitable. Because the benefit will be taxable to the lowest income earner, a single parent family, a two-income family, and a two-parent-single-income family will all get different amounts.

After taking into account the income tax that will have to be paid, and the elimination of the former low-earner supplement to the Child Tax Benefit, of the original $1200 per year you will only be able to keep:

$641 if you are a two-income family earning $40K a year;

$768 if you are a single parent with an income of $20K a year;

$951 if you are on welfare; and,

$971 if you are a one-income family earning $250K a year.

(See the Caledon Institute’s excellent essay for a detailed analysis. I took these figures from their report.)

Isn’t that lovely? The upper-class one-income family, which most likely does not even use child care, gets more than $200 a year more in net benefits, per child, than a working poor single parent.

And then, as if that weren’t a bitter enough pill to swallow, the media this weekend reported that childcare centres across the country are hiking day care fees just in time to benefit from the new allowance to parents. Some centres are hiking fees by as much as $75 a month, which leaves parents with a net deficit at the end of the month. One daycare centre operator wrote a letter to parents, saying, “[the daycare centre] would like to be a part recipient of those funds which are to be used for day-care purposes.”

This isn’t about, never was about, should not be about working parents versus stay-at-home parents. If the government wants to hand out this half-assed, poorly planned reward to the voters who were naïve enough to elect them, fair enough. Call it the “thanks for electing us” benefit, then. To their credit, they did change the name of the credit from the Choice in Child Care Allowance to the Universal Child Care Benefit, which is only mildly instead of completely patronizing and insulting. Because it’s far from universal, and has little or nothing to do with child care.

If the government wants to make a meaningful financial contribution to the families who are paying for child care, they should consider changing the tax laws so the highest income earner in the family can deduct the child care expenses, for starters. And then they should go back to the drawing board to find a real way to make child care accessible, reliable and truly universal. We’ve got a long way to go.


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krista July 5, 2006 at 11:39 am

Wow, I didn’t realize that was the payout structure of it all. I’m outraged.

2 nancy July 5, 2006 at 12:50 pm

How screwed up is that? I didn’t know those numbers, and like you, think it is a farce.
I do like your idea of calling it the “thanks for electing us” benefit – too funny!
Since I am currently at home with the kids, and not in need of child care at the moment, AND don’t know how much we will end up getting, maybe I should just buy some beer and popcorn?? (snark snark)

3 H&D's Mom July 5, 2006 at 1:10 pm

Interesting that none of the four examples outlined above represents the majority of Canadian families. Even a DUAL income $40,000 per year family (as cited) is quite a bit below the average, or the majority. Where’s the example of what the average Canadian will take home? They’ve chosen four relatively small groups to get our collective backs up over this.
Also interesting is that it’s considered outrageous that someone who pays out (in income taxes) FAR more than the $40k income of the second example family (sometimes even twice that amount) should get $200 more per year. Oh the inequity! Paying out all that tax and, before now, not having access to ANY child care benefits. Whose decision is it anyway to decide exactly when someone is “rich” enough in this country to not be entitled to benefits of any kind (the situation before this benefit was passed).
I realize that many of us in Canada believe that all benefits should go to the less fortunate of us, and none to the better off. But paying a ton of tax and getting little in return isn’t much of an incentive to strive for more.
Also, if I was so naive as to vote for these clowns, imagine how naive someone must have been to vote for the Liberals who actually didn’t show up or even vote against the budget that included all of these changes in the first place! Yeah, those Liberals are a first rate bunch, that’s for sure.

4 BeachMama July 5, 2006 at 1:18 pm

As little as it is, I’ll take it.
And if anyone doesn’t want their share, they can forward it to me as well.
A lot more can be done and should be done, as much of a pitance as it is, at least it is a step that wasn’t there last year, and this time it includes those who choose to stay home. Perhaps, like nancy, I will buy some beer and popcorn 😉

5 Sharon July 5, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Does me no good either and now of the So called Family allowance has in years. I rather not get a thing.

6 Dean Dad July 5, 2006 at 2:24 pm

I wish we Americans could even have this argument.

7 Yoda's Papa July 5, 2006 at 2:39 pm

I’m with H&D’s Mom on this one – considering the truckload of tax we’ll be paying when we get home, every little bit helps – even if it ends up getting spent at the Apple Store…

8 David July 5, 2006 at 3:00 pm

That was the best post I have ever read! Very informative, and very true! Good stuff. I enjoyed the article and I think its rediculous that a 250k family will see more of the money, and that daycares are hiking their fees.
No one could afford daycare before…thats why the $100 a month…jeepers.

9 nancy July 5, 2006 at 3:18 pm

I have more, rather a backtrack.
I somewhat agree with H&D, but then I also agree with others (can I be two-faced here?)
I’ll admit to taking the money, but I obviously won’t be buying beer. We have decided to either put it in their accounts, or to use towards their activities like preschool, swimming and skating lessons. $100 month doesn’t even cover the monthly preschool fees (for three mornings a week no less), but then again, working parents with children in childcare ALSO have gymnastics and piano lessons, right?
But if the government wants to provide some help, then I do feel they should make the system (either thru benefits or tax breaks) worth it enough to actually really help and make a difference.
I guess I really don’t have much more constructive to say. I’ll still take the money though. Who wouldn’t?

10 JoJo July 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm

This whole thing has pissed me off from the very start. It would piss me off even if they didn’t tax it. I printed off the application form and filled it out and it’s all ready to go; except I can’t bring myself to send it in.
Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion and since I can only speak with confidence about my own here it goes.
If the rich pay more taxes and should be entitled to more, then I guess we really are moving towards a rich and poor class society. I am not impressed with the Liberals. But I do see why they didn’t oppose the budget. If they had and it became the point to bring down the government then we would have found ourselves going to the polls again. The Liberals are in the middle of choosing a new leader. I think we can all agree that if an election had been called a month or two ago that the Conservatives would have likely formed a majority government and been given carte blanche to do what the wanted. That is FAR, FAR, FAR scarier than the budget passing.
I stayed home with my daughter for a little over a year. As hard as it was living for that long on 35% of my income, I would rather not have received that $100 a month. I would have rather that the government had taken all that money and invested it in municipal, provincial and federal programs for my baby and me. I would have rather not wait outside an Early Years Center in -20 for almost an hour just to get in and be able to interact with other mothers and babies for all of two hours once a week. I would have rather not spent over $2000 dollars on lactation consultants and pump rentals because the hospital could only see me once a week in cramped room so I could get some help feeding my baby.
Now that I am working, I would rather they take my money and invest it into home daycares. As they said, this money was for options; because no one helped those who chose home daycare. Well I chose home daycare. And my daycare provider is screwed in all this. She gets $175 a week per child (max 5 kids). She is a single mom who can barely afford to keep her own household going. Her ex-husband had left her in limbo when it came to insurance. Yes she had it. No she didn’t. But she was She was doing ok. Then she found out she has breast cancer at 37. Now she can’t work. She couldn’t afford insurance for herself on what she was making. So now, she will lose the house she fought so hard to keep. She will lose her independence and at the speed at which this cancer is growing will possibly lose her life. Now imagine if the invested that money in people like her. Subsidized her and gave her basic insurance.
This $1200 is not going to change any one family’s life. But imagine what it would do for yours, mine and everyone’s if we took it invested it in all of us. Isn’t that what Canada is all about? ALL of us.

11 Jodi July 5, 2006 at 3:55 pm

Holy crap – I had no idea!

12 A Stillie July 5, 2006 at 4:45 pm

I do agree with you in some aspects although there are many other situations where it does benefit. Our baby has cancer, I am unable to work as I need to take him to all of his appointments. My husband is the sole bread winner (thank you Rob). Every tiny bit helps us and for that we are grateful. No, we don’t use day care, we can’t because of no immune system. But now I can use this money to buy my two little boys things that we can never afford, or make up for the screwed up life we are living now by using it to have family outings. Take what you can get and enjoy it. There are some people that don’t have the option of daycare but still need a little extra help.

13 ktcakes! July 5, 2006 at 5:05 pm

Facinating stuff.
Are your childcare expenses tax deductible? In the US you can put aside an amount from your paycheck into a Dependent Care Account pretax and use it for childcare expenses. or just deduct the amount on your tax return, though you don’t get as much of a benefit that way.
Not a great system, for sure. Universal childcare is an absolute must in my book. but was curious about how your childcare expenses effect your tax return.
Hey! at least you guys got the maternity/paternity leave right! I admire that.

14 mrsgryphon July 5, 2006 at 5:29 pm

sigh… such a complicated issue. I agree that it’s not really enough $ to make a significant impact on our monthly budget right now. For our family (we don’t qualify for the Child Tax Benefit) it will go into the Jellybean’s RESP and will, hopefully, be enough to make a difference in the long run when it comes to her education.
With all the taxes that we pay, I’ll take whatever I can get back from the gov’t and do what I can to make it worthwhile.

15 DaniGirl July 5, 2006 at 6:37 pm

Kate – the US system sounds even more arcanely complex than ours! You can deduct child care expenses on your tax return here, to a maximum of $7000 per child under six or something to that effect, except the expenses can only be deducted by the person with the lower net income (and therefore the lower marginal tax rate), and if one spouse makes less than $10K or so a year, in effect you don’t get any benefit for the deduction.
My complaint is not about the money itself – who couldn’t use a couple of extra bucks? – but the fact that it is being sold to the public as “universal”, which it isn’t, and a solution to the real shortage of accessible, reliable daycare, which it isn’t.
And you know what? To steal a phrase from an old family friend, I’d love to pay a million dollars in income tax some day.
(Welcome to the new commenters – fresh opinions and faces are always welcome! And A Stillie – a baby with cancer? I’m so sorry. You and Jojo really put things into perspective.)

16 Snack Mommy July 5, 2006 at 7:14 pm

While I disagree with the ideology of this post, I could at least respect it…until I got to the phrase “the voters who were naïve enough to elect them”.
How on earth could anyone call it naive to vote for the Conservatives given the blatent corruption in the Liberal government? The Conservatives very clearly ran on a five point plan, and have been systematically implementing that plan. Naivité would be voting for one system and having the government hoodwink you into another. Which raises another point.
I am rather amused at anyone who is shocked, astounded, or even raising their eyebrows at the after tax calculations. It was very clearly stated in the election campaign that the funds would be taxed in the lower income parter’s name.
As for the benefits of this plan to the SAHP, I do not see why that is viewed as such a taboo thing. There is the obvious argument of the higher level of taxes paid by most families in this situation, but we also need to look at how this came to be.
In our situation (and in most I would imagine). My SAHM status did not arise from the lottery, inheritance, or magic pixie dust. My husband and I diligently worked together to decide on education, careers, and financial plans which would put us in this situation at this point in our lives. Options which are available to every single Canadian.
I have no problem with a greater portion of my family’s tax dollars going to issue such as health care, as it’s a system we all use and for the most part illness doesn’t show bias. However, if other’s choose (or have chosen) different routes regarding thier education, income, and careers, I do take issue with being expected to further support them with the child care options with which they are now faced.
As for being upset this plan is being sold as universal. Well, it is universal. Different individiuals are facing various tax implications. But every single person with a child under 6 is recieving this benefit. Unlike further funding being given to childcare centres where there is absolutely no benefit given to a large group of families who don’t use this option.
Obviously, I am not alone in these views as we would not currently have a Conservative Government which was democratically elected.

17 Beanie Baby July 5, 2006 at 8:23 pm

“In our situation (and in most I would imagine). My SAHM status did not arise from the lottery, inheritance, or magic pixie dust. My husband and I diligently worked together to decide on education, careers, and financial plans which would put us in this situation at this point in our lives. Options which are available to every single Canadian. ”
Those options are not available to every single Canadian, and I am “amused” that anyone could think that they are.
Now I have seen the light–of course! Those poor single mothers CHOSE to be born to poor single mothers in poverty-stricken and crime-ridden communities, with substandard public education, greatly higher-than-average levels of damaging industrial pollutants, a lack of safe and accessible community programs, and a dearth of adequate employment opportunities! They CHOSE to then be abandoned by their partners during pregnancy or after the baby came home–why, they took that bullwhip and drove that man right out the door! “That’s it, Buster! I CHOOSE to be broke and I CHOOSE for my child to have no better life!” They CHOSE not to be able to afford housing in a neighbourhood that would allow safer entertainment or education for their children! They CHOSE not to have parents wealthy enough to afford postsecondary education for their kids, or to be able to qualify for student loans; and they CHOSE to attend public schools so chronically underfunded that they would have a hard time getting into university anyway!
(Note: Yes, I realize that I am exploiting a stereotype and that many single mothers do not fit this categorization.)
It must be nice to sit so close to the top of the societal heap and believe that you actually deserve to be there. But you don’t, and neither do I. I did absolutely nothing to CHOOSE two upper-income parents with a stable marriage in a safe middle-class community with good public schools and a clean environment who could afford to give me so many of those options that have led me to the place of material comfort I am currently in. I did not CHOOSE to be born white and english-speaking near the largest and wealthiest city in Canada with a wealth of well-respected post-secondary institutions. Did I work hard to get here? Yes. Did I work as hard as the lower-income folks taking two or three minimum-wage jobs to pay the rent and still not enough to buy food? No. And I should not be financially rewarded for being lucky.
I saw the tax breakdowns last year before the election and thought it was pretty disgusting. Personally (and as I notice that as all Canadian political debates seem to do, the NDP are left out) I prefer the NDP plan of keeping the benefit, making it part of the Child Tax Benefit so that it’s not taxable income, and ALSO instituting greater childcare supports. Why the either/or? Why a pitched battle over which is better? Why not both? The tax savings from other programs as a result of better childcare options and parental supports are clearly great enough that we could afford it. (Unless, of course, we simply are determined to punish those who CHOSE not to be able to afford a SAHP.)
In the meantime, I’ll take the money, put it in a savings account and, if I can afford it, make a nice donation to our daycare centre around tax-time next year. Maybe make it a bit easier for them to keep the fees down so that other parents will have an easier time paying that bill.

18 JoJo July 5, 2006 at 9:42 pm

for Beanie Baby : *applause*

19 JoJo July 5, 2006 at 9:54 pm

It absolutely slays me when I hear about their 5 point plan. The majority of Canadians in fact, did not elect them. And I guess since they told us they were going to screw us, we should be quiet about it when the screwing commences. :rolling eyes:

20 BeachMama July 6, 2006 at 12:41 pm

Snack Mommy, I just had to post some **applause** for you.
Thank you for putting into words what I was actually thinking.
(And for the record, like nancy, I won’t be buying beer and popcorn. I don’t even drink beer anymore! The money will be going to J. Either in the form of new clothes or Duffer Doo or swimming or… just for him)

21 yvonne July 7, 2006 at 5:31 pm

I am just happy to get a little bit of the massive amounts that I pay out back. And I am happy that people that choose to stay home get a little piece of the action, albeit little.

22 kris July 8, 2006 at 9:49 pm

I’m with Dean Dad–the US is woefully behind on this.
And I second the applause for Beanie Baby–Snack Mommy overestimates the degree to which careers, education and financial plans are determined by personal choices.

23 Sara Landriault July 13, 2006 at 1:51 pm

so join us and go for “fund the child” this system can be implimented in the government and all childcare will benefit. No pitting stay at home against paid work. That will not matter if we fund the child. I agree with you for the most part and I am the choice for childcare blogger. My problem is the Liberal was an insult more than the Conservative. So what do we do? Fight each other, no. Both of us matter and our children matter more so lets stand together and make a new childcare plan for all the parents stay at home, daycare and everything in between…

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