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The Couillard Government's Goal: Dismantle the Québec Model

11/18/2014 12:45 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec speaks at the New England Governors and eastern Canadian Premiers 38th annual conference Monday, July 14, 2014, in Bretton Woods, N.H. Energy and economic collaboration were the main topics at Sunday and Monday's conference. Eastern Canada is rich in hydropower while New England markets are eager to shore up supply and control some of the nation's highest energy costs. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

In last week's blog, I indicated that I would come back to the issue of Canadian averages, which seem to be very important for Premier Couillard. With all its trial balloons, it's clear that the Couillard government is drawing on the Canadian model to dismantle Québec's. Yet Québec's model has many distinctive features that benefit the middle class and the less well-off. Take Hydro Québec, for example, or tuition-free CEGEPs, or university tuition that is much more accessible than in the vast majority of Canadian provinces, or cheaper auto insurance, to name just a few.

So I've decided to focus this week on one issue that's in the news right now, and then go back over all of Québec's social programs next week. My next blog will show that it costs a lot more to live elsewhere in Canada, taking all taxes and so on into account. The choice that Quebecers have made to establish social programs is therefore definitely a profitable one.

But let's start with fees for child care. The Couillard government is currently waging an ideological war to dismantle what makes Québec distinctive at all levels, beginning on the economic front. He is so insistent about it that I've started calling Premier Couillard "Captain Canada"! He's making a head-on attack on Québec's family policy, which is the envy of others all across Canada. For years now, the experts have been trying to figure out how to introduce this program in the rest of Canada.

To outline the benefits of this family policy for the population of Québec, I've decided to cite a few sources. Many people think that the FSSS only defends its members' corporatist interests, but they're wrong. As you can see below, there are lots of people who agree with our analysis.

Even the Couillard government's Ministry of Families can't get around the objective facts. Here are two positive aspects found on the ministry's own web site:

In 2009, the labour force participation rate for women between the ages of 25 and 54 with children under 6 was higher in Québec (77.6 per cent) than in the rest of Canada (73.1 per cent). In particular, it outstripped the rates observed in Ontario (73.0 per cent), Manitoba (68.5 per cent), Alberta (65.9 per cent) and British Columbia (70.2 per cent).

For Québec, it's an increase of 12 per cent since 1995 -- the last year that parents were charged the full fees. This participation (or activity) rate would probably be even higher if the shortage of spaces had been dealt with properly.

Furthermore, in 2007, the incidence of single- or two-parent families with low incomes was lower in Québec than in other provinces using the consumer basket methodology. To explain why there are fewer low-income families in Québec, some exploratory parts of the answer would be the lower cost of housing in Québec, higher transfer payments and cheaper child care.

According to an article in Le Devoir:

In Brampton, Ontario, for example, median childcare fees take the equivalent of 36 per cent of the mother's annual revenue, or approximately four months of work. In Toronto, London and Windsor, it's 34 per cent of the mother's earnings that go for the annual cost of child care.

It's not surprising that this indicator is lowest in Québec -- about 5 per cent. In Gatineau, child care costs mothers about two weeks of work per year, or 4.0 per cent of their annual income. In Montréal, Longueuil and Québec City, it's 6.0 per cent -- and in Laval, 7.0 per cent.

The Yahoo Internet news site reported a few pearls as well:

Inversely -- or consequently -- public spending for each space in child care was highest in Québec, at close to $6,000 (in 2012), compared to approximately $3,000 in Ontario and $1,600 in New Brunswick.

A tremendous investment for families that's only made in Québec.

Fees are highest in Toronto, at $1,676 a month per child. St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, is fairly close behind at $1,394, followed by other big cities in Ontario and Vancouver.

Last spring, Radio Canada published an interesting article on its web site:

Thus in Vancouver, it costs between $900 and $1,000 a month for child care for one child -- the equivalent of fairly decent housing in Montréal, on the other side of the country.

Only 19 per cent of children between the ages of 1 and 3 in British Columbia had access to regulated child care, though. Many daycare centres are unregulated operations, costing less but with a much higher risk of negligence.

This week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report on the state of child care across Canada. The results are unambiguous:

"Affordable child care is an important issue not just for parents, it's important for Canada's economy. When parents are given an affordable child care option, as in Quebec, they overwhelmingly choose to work," said David MacDonald.

Even the Argent channel (a TV channel that can hardly be accused of leaning to the left) discussed it this week, saying:

Some even argue that families would choose not to have a second or third child. "Many households can't afford to absorb an increase in childcare fees. They're already living from pay to pay," commented Sylvie De Bellefeuille, in charge of budgeting and legal services with Option consommateurs.

I could have present more comments pointing out the benefits of Québec's family policy. All this shows that the only effect the Couillard government's ideological stubbornness will have is to hurt the population.