B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has been exerting his influence in several ways on the government’s agenda, and that includes objecting to its promise of universal $10-a-day child care. The universal part means that anyone who needs the program can use it, regardless of income.
Weaver was quoted in this paper as saying: “I’ve made the case many times before — somebody who’s earning $2 million a year clearly doesn’t need to pay $10 for child care. Why would we support a program that would diffuse the limited resources we have to provide a one-size-fits-all [approach]?”
The first is that they endure. That’s because people support what they see as a benefit for themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are using that program right now. What matters is that they’ve paid their taxes and, in return, as a citizen, they can use the program when and if they and their family members need it.
Here are a few examples of universal programs that have built this province and country:
University and college tuition for Canadians is subsidized by government and is not income-tested. We don’t pay more if our family has a higher income. This has led to a highly educated workforce that benefits employers as well as individuals.
We have free, universal, public education from kindergarten to Grade 12 because we want to ensure all our kids have the basic education required to function in society and have opportunities for future success.
We have a universal Canada Pension Plan. We pay into it from our earnings and we get a pension at the end of our working lives. We aren’t cut off once we reach a certain income level.
Even roads and transit are universal programs. The government has removed tolls on bridges in the Lower Mainland, saying people shouldn’t have to pay more based on where they live. And we don’t say you can’t ride the bus because you’re too rich.
And, of course, the grand-daddy of all universal programs is health care. There is one payer — the government — for one system with access based on need. You don’t get better health care in this country because you earn more — or less. And we all benefit from not having to pick between health care and financial ruin.
(As an aside, generating the revenue for that universal access is another issue and one that has become controversial as a result of the government’s new health tax on payrolls — but that’s another column.)
The second universal truth about universal programs is that, counter-intuitively, the only way to make sure there is enough funding to sustain them is to provide them to everyone. The reality is the opposite of what Weaver is suggesting. As government funding gets tight, we don’t cut programs that benefit everyone — we cut programs for the poor. Think health care compared to income assistance.
Or more to the point, we’ve had a low-income child-care subsidy program in this province for decades. It has been squeezed and shaved to the point that you basically have to have almost no income to qualify. And that’s what the government is trying to fix with a universal program.
Yes, we need child care to support single mothers on income assistance. But, equally important, we need child care to support two-income working families who are stretched to the limit by housing and transportation and child-care costs. Employers need all of those parents’ skills and expertise in our full-employment economy. And all children need high-quality child care to get a good start in life before they can go on to get their public school education and post-secondary training and join the workforce.
So to answer Weaver’s question: “Why would we support a program that would diffuse the limited resources we have to provide a one-size-fits-all [approach]?”
We support a one-size-fits-all approach because it is the tried-and-true Canadian way to have a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Chamber CEO Catherine Holt was a guest of CFAX talk radio host Mark Brennae on Wednesday (Feb. 21, 2018). The two talked about BC Budget 2018, announced on Feb. 20. Follow this link to listen to the interview here. Audio courtesy of CFAX 1070. For more on The Chamber’s position on the Budget, see Finance Minister addresses Chamber Business Leaders Luncheon.
This is bound to be an extra lively year as The Chamber rolls up its sleeves on behalf of our members. The Chamber’s theme for 2018 is Building Good Business, something we’ve done for the last 155 years.
Adding to the usual mix of lively issues, the region goes to the polls in October to vote for our respective mayors and councilors. There is power in numbers so we’re asking our members to vote for the candidates you think can address the following three issues:
First, employers are having a hard time finding and keeping workers to keep their companies going and our economy healthy. We need commitment to:
• Market our region to attract people from other regions, provinces and countries and then help them to get here and fill a job.
• Housing is expensive and rentals almost non-existent. Part of attracting workers is ensuring they can find and afford a place to live - workforce housing developments need to be fast tracked. More student housing is needed on campus to free up rentals.
• After housing, child care is the second most expensive thing for a young family – if they can find it. We need affordable, quality child care, so parents can work. Employers need them.
• When living costs are high, we need cheaper transportation options. Workers need public transit to be affordable, frequent, speedy, and to go where they need to be.
The second issue is our long-standing need for better governance through fewer government. Amalgamation may be the means but ultimately the outcome needed is better service for our tax dollars. I recently learned from one of our distinguished governors, Terry Farmer, that in 1959, Eric Charman, legendary Victoria mover and shaker, and Stuart Keate, then publisher of the Victoria Times, hired J.J Deutch, a UBC faculty member “to do a study on the possible amalgamation of Victoria and the surrounding municipalities”. That was 60 years ago. We are encouraged that Victoria and Saanich both passed motions in January asking the Province to create a Citizen’s Assembly to examine the same issue, but we need to seriously speed up the timeline.
Third, safe communities are a critical cornerstone. We all pay the price when parts of our city become associated with homelessness, anti-social and criminal behavior. Safe communities require the rule of law, adequate police resources, the active participation of citizens and adequate housing and services to care for those who cannot care for themselves. We are encouraged again, by motions passed by Victoria and Saanich councils in support of a regional police force comprised of Victoria/Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay and Central Saanich. The combined resources would enable a big step up in public safety.
Finally, there are new and disruptive technologies and public demands for change that mayors and councilors must assess. The public should have access to innovative services and products as long as those companies operate under the same rules as existing businesses. In other words, they don’t avoid tax, public safety requirements, or fair employment standards. We’ll be watching to see how the cannabis industry is regulated, how retailers are affected by the plan to reduce plastic bags, how short term vacation rentals are managed and how ride sharing rolls out.
This will be a year to set expectations for what we want from government. Let’s use it to Build Good Business.