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ANDERSON: The NDP's nanny state

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August 11, 2015 - 7:50 AM

As the federal election nears, the Liberals and NDP are scrambling for the same soft unaligned votes on the left and left-leaning center. As of this writing the NDP is in the ascendancy for a number of reasons, most having to do with Justin's bubbly campaign going flat in the absence of any real policy ideas. I'm inclined to think that the Liberals are done, simply because they put all their eggs in the "Justin" basket and, like "Kim!" Campbell in 1993, once a headliner becomes blasé it's almost impossible to recapture momentum.

This gives the NDP an enormous advantage because it has relied on actual policy instead of a pretty face. But no one has really taken much of a look at what the NDP's policy platform really says, so over the next few weeks I'll be looking at some of the ideas they've put forward.

This week: the NDP's "national daycare plan."

It's impossible to gain any sense of the NDP's daycare plan from the NDP website. After a video consisting of "Tom" spreading grandfatherly platitudes through a frozen rictus that's apparently supposed to represent a folksy grin, the only information available about the plan is that it will cost parents $15 per day "at most," followed by some fairly specious claims removed from all relevant context. But we know about his plan from other sources.

First, like the Quebec model that Mulcair helped develop, it's financially unsustainable. The Quebec plan has been in financial trouble from almost day one, first raising its daily cost to parents, then setting a sliding scale that made a mockery of the universality of the plan, and finally having to deal with the inevitable union strikes which effectively pull the rug out from under the parents who rely on it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Don't take my word for it... just ask Quebec's Auditor General.

The NDP plan of $15/day would cost the Canadian taxpayer an estimated $5 billion per year when it is fully operational, assuming the union never asks for a raise, which would be a completely silly assumption since non-unionized daycare workers are underpaid relative to unionized teachers. Add to that the well over $3 billion more the provinces will have to kick in. Plus the $3 billion it'll cost to keep the Conservatives' Universal Child Care Benefit cheques, which Mulcair also promised to keep. On top of that the chaos of strikes like the one that left almost 100,000 kids and parents stranded in Quebec, and this plan is a millstone that won't work and can only be financed through massive deficit spending.

"Morally, Spiritually, Culturally?"

Less talked about but even more important in the long run than the unsustainability of the plan is its cultural impact. When we think of daycare today, we tend to think of kindly folks who play with our kids and teach them basic socialization skills. But that's not what we're looking at in the NDP plan. A snapshot of what we can expect is found in the Coalition of Child Care Advocates' daycare plan, an organization that's had significant input to the NDP framework.

Instead of a simple subsidy to daycares, it's a fully unionized and regulated curriculum that includes, among other things, "...programs where children have opportunities to develop physically, socially, emotionally, morally, spiritually, culturally, cognitively and creatively."  Note the "morally," "spiritually," and "culturally."  These are things that parents teach their own kids. Do we really want government taking over that function during our kids most vulnerable and formative years?

About 25 per cent of all parents have chosen not to use the public school system for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the morality their kids are being taught there. Well, you might say, then why don't those 25 per cent just not put their kids in private daycare if they don't want to use the public system? Here's why: Because this plan would not only revoke funding for private daycares, but effectively double or triple the cost of comparable private daycares that manage to survive. That means middle class parents will have no choice but to use the public system if they want any daycare at all, and only the rich will have the means to choose their own options.

Without sounding unduly alarmist, the public school system, with its creeping intrusion of "social values," already has our kids from a fairly early age, and this plan will ensure that it has them virtually from birth. Is that what we really want?

And if you don't think there's an agenda at work here, check out page six of  the Coalition of Child Care Advocates' daycare plan: "We know our plan requires a cultural shift that may take a generation to fully achieve." Why would a simple daycare plan require a "cultural shift?"

— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves and a bunch of other stuff. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

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