Commentary: Reliable and affordable childcare key to an inclusive recovery

Leah Nord is Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating affect on Canada’s labour market, both for employers and employees. As detailed in the Canadian Chamber’s Roadmap to Recovery, we need to focus on getting Canadians back to work.

As we move into re-opening and on to recovery phases across the country, health and safety concerns remain at the forefront. As employees continue and return to work, either remotely or onsite (or a variety of hybrid models therein) a key to successful work re-integration and economic recovery for parents is the availability of reliable and affordable childcare.

Appreciating jurisdictional considerations, there is a number of things that the federal government can do.  In the first instance, the federal government can lead by example in ensuring inclusivity in recovery, welcoming strong childcare voices at all discussion tables. 

Similarly, in discussions about childcare, the federal government should ensure a panorama of voices including business, labour, the childcare sector, academics and experts, parents and children themselves are represented.

The federal government should also review and revise child care tax credits, both for parents/guardians and for childcare providers. Furthermore, in offering funding for interested jurisdictions, the federal government can encourage support to innovative programming such as Manitoba’s Temporary Child Care Services Grant Program.

In the medium to longer term, the Canadian Chamber and its network believe that one of the strongest contributions that the federal government can make to a national childcare ecosystem is in workforce planning.  In doing, the focus needs to be on:

  • prioritizing workforce planning in the childcare sector; 
  • encouraging jurisdictions and regulating bodies to standardize certification criteria and standards, including foreign credential recognition and bridging;
  • enhancing online training programs to facilitate access to for those in remote communities in particular; and
  • financial support to increase access to early childhood education opportunities for populations including indigenous, youth, women and immigrants to ensure inclusive recovery.

Ensuring all Canadians, including parents – and women in particular, have opportunities to participate in the post-pandemic recovery is essential for inclusive growth and widespread job creation. We need reliable and affordable childcare across this country to facilitate getting Canadians back to work.

– Leah Nord