A Concerted Attack on Women's Rights
February 6, 2006. Stephen Harper is sworn in as Canada's new prime minister. He first introduces his new cabinet, then sets a date for the opening of parliament. Moments later, as his very first official act as prime minister, he devastates millions of mothers by cutting the $5 billion national child care program. This is a program that organizations and families across Canada had organized, fought for and thought they had finally won. Yet it was a program destroyed by one offensive act that abused every working mother, child and family across the country.
Within a few short weeks more than 100,000 Canadians had signed petitions protesting this decision. A special drive called Code Blue, representing 80 groups of various interests, also launched objection. But none of this mattered to Stephen Harper. Instead of helping every family, he decided on a measly monthly allowance of $100 for kids under 6.
Fast forward two years and Canada had the worst child care access and some of the highest fees in the industrialized world, often exceeding the annual cost of university. To date Canada also sits near the bottom for child poverty rates, an absolute scandal for such a wealthy nation. Low-income parents can’t afford to go to work or get a better education, yet they can’t afford not to. It’s a lose-lose situation.
At the end of the day it ends up being a political choice, not an economic one. Studies have shown that affordable child-care pays for itself through increased economic activity. But it shouldn’t even be about economics, it should be about caring for your neighbour. If we had affordable child care it would greatly decrease social inequality, discrimination and bring families out of destitution.
Just for once, Stephen Harper, would it really hurt you to do something helpful about the real problems faced by Canadians?