07/20/2015 06:50 EDT | Updated 07/20/2016 05:59 EDT

More child care needed, not benefit cheques, Winnipeg mom says

Parents across the country woke up with a little more money in their pockets — but some think the $3 billion in federal cash would've gone a lot further if it were instead used to create more child-care spaces in Canada.

The federal government's enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit kicked in across Canada on Monday. Parents and guardians have been receiving $100 a month for each child under 6 since 2006. As of Monday, that monthly allowance has been boosted to $160 for each kid under the age of six; to $60 per month for kids aged six to 17 years old.


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But because the payment structure change is retroactive, dating back to January of this year, some parents actually received $520 for each kid under the age of six, and $420 for kids between six and 17, on Monday.

Carla Thompson, a Winnipeg mother of two, said she is happy with the extra money, but she'd rather see it go toward creating more daycare spaces.

"Well we take the money and put it into [Registered Education Savings Plans] for our kids," said Thompson. "But realistically, I think it would make more sense to put it into more child-care spaces, because that's probably our biggest stress as parents."

It took almost three years to find a daycare in Winnipeg for her two-year-old son, Thompson said.

Jennifer Magierowicz said she, too, appreciates the extra money but would prefer to see it go toward a national plan to create more daycare spots.

"I think that if choices have to be made, looking at quality daycare for children under five ... it's critical for the advancement of our society as Canadians in general," she said. "If we have to have choices ... maybe this wasn't the best one."

Pat Wege, the executive director with the Manitoba Child Care Association, agrees the federal strategy is misguided.

"Some say it could be better used," said Wege. "For example, we have 12,000 kids on a wait list for a child-care space. Where is the development in child-care facilities?

Wege said some parents are also concerned the Conservative government's child benefit is politically motivated.

"It's a lump some payment before a federal election. What is it really intended to do, you know — the timing is definitely suspicious," said Wege.

All three main parties have released platform points designed to woo families who tend to live in key suburban ridings that could swing the federal election.

On Monday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair repeated his previous promise to retain the Conservative's child benefit if elected. Mulcair said the NDP would revise the strategy by including a million child-care spaces, which they would provide to parents for $15 a day.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would cancel the benefit and replace it with a tax-free benefit that's worth more to families making less than $150,000 a year. The Liberals said they would pay for the plan by ending benefits for families making more than $200,000 a year.

Manitoba Conservative MP Joyce Bateman has defended the plan.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper is delivering all of this within a balanced budget and without raising taxes," said Bateman.

The payout on Monday went to about 3.8 million families across Canada.