Quebec's child care program pays for itself - proof we can do it here

Jun 24, 2011

At a forum held at the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development in Toronto, economists argued that according to their analysis of Quebec’s popular $7-a-day program, governments that say they can’t afford to invest in affordable child care are wrong.

Pierre Fortin, an economics professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal, presented his findings that for every dollar Quebec invests, it recoups $1.05 while Ottawa receives a 44-cent windfall.

“The argument can no longer be that governments cannot afford it. This program is paying for itself. It is self-financing. That is the main finding,” he says.

About 50 per cent of Quebec children under 5 are now enrolled in the program, a stark contrast from Ontario where 4 out of 5 children do not have access to a licensed child care space, and parents of those who do are struggling to cover the fees upwards of $40-60 a day.

The program was introduced gradually in 1997, and by 2008, about 70,000 more women with young children had entered the workforce who would not otherwise have been working, a 3.8 per cent increase, Fortin found. The ripple effect of their employment pumped an additional $5.2 billion into the Quebec economy, boosting the province’s Gross Domestic Product by 1.7 per cent. If a similar program existed in Ontario, it would send another $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion to Ottawa, Fortin estimates.

Previous cost-benefit studies of Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare looked only at mothers’ income taxes and lower government transfers and pegged the benefits at 40 cents for every dollar spent, Fortin says. But those studies neglected to include the economic impact of working mothers’ increased purchasing power, including increased consumption taxes, investment and corporate taxes, he says.

To read the Toronto Star's article on the forum, please click here.

In response to the event the Toronto Star's Laurie Monsebraaten published the article "Ontario urged to spend more on child care". To read the article, please click here.

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