The following is a “Bottom Line” commentary from Rick Peterson, who is currently seeking the Conservative Party of Canada nomination for the federal riding of Edmonton – Strathcona. This is currently the only seat, held by the NDP, in the province of Alberta.
I remember clearly the day, when I was a young father, that I got a phone call at the office at 1:45 in the afternoon, in the middle of a hot summer day, that has since forever shaped the way that I think of child care.
“Hi Rick. Sorry to bother you, but I have a bit of a problem.”
Oh-oh. This can’t be good.
It was the young woman who my wife and I had hired to look after our two-year-old son. With a long waiting list for daycare and no suitable private alternatives in our neighborhood, and with both of us working hard at different businesses in offices across town from home to make ends meet, we’d found someone who would come into our home every day and babysit our son.
“We went out for a picnic this afternoon and I just got a flat tire. Plus, the baby looks like he has a fever. And I ran out of diapers. Can you come out and get us?”
Of course, I did. Even though it meant writing off a whole afternoon at work.
As I rushed out the front door, throwing on my jacket, I caught the elevator door on the 18th floor and squeezed in just before it shut. And there, inside the elevator, I found a woman who had eight little boys and girls all holding a rope, wearing blue vests, smiling and clearly excited.
“Where are you kids going?” I asked the little girl standing next to me.
“To the park for a picnic,” she replied with a sweet smile, missing one front tooth. “Do you want to come?”.
I would have loved to, but obviously couldn’t. But by the time we arrived on the ground floor, I learned that these lucky children were cared for in the offices of a large utility company that was three floors above mine.
What I wouldn’t have given to have that option for my son. And I found out later that this day care space, which was overseen by a fully qualified child care professional, was considered to be one of the perks that attracted top employees to the utility company.
I thought about this again recently when I read articles about how working mothers in Canada trying to go back to work after a COVID-imposed break can’t find child care.
We need to find a solution for that.
Should daycare support be a role for the federal government? No, of course not.
The range of child care options in Canada is varied, with the provinces and territories providing most of the funding.
In my view, we need the private sector to step up and help parents in the work force find quality and affordable child care at or very near their place of work.
Here’s a key chart from a Statistics Canada report that provides an excellent overview of child care in Canada today.
The key takeaway is this: the overwhelming factor in a parent making a child care decision is the location of the child care facility. If it’s close to work – that’s hugely positive.
The Bottom Line on this issue is the following:
We need to do everything we can to encourage private sector employers to provide child care facilities at or near their place of work. Smart employers will realize what a huge benefit this is to retain top talent – and it’s not given away freely. Parents still have to pay, and they will, believe me.
How do we make this happen? Let’s think outside the box.
Let’s advance this idea the same way we have the push for more diversity on our corporate boards. Putting pressure on directors. Making it a top consideration in corporate governance. Raising awareness. Taking a leadership role on an issue that needs to be addressed.
The Bottom Line here is that as Conservative MP for Edmonton Strathcona, I’ll be a bold voice in government and in front of private sector colleagues to start to look for innovative solutions.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.