The first federal budget in nearly two years brought a raft of much needed big spending. But women will still need to fight to make it happen.

The $30 Billion is to be spent over the next five years. Chrystia Freeland, the federal finance minister made this a cornerstone of her budget and given that the government estimates over 16,000 women lost their jobs directly due to the pandemic, while the male labour force grew by an estimated 91,000 jobs. Go figure. An RBC analysis suggested that almost 500,000 women lost their jobs during the pandemic and those jobs haven’t returned. This of course, puts enormous pressure on families and especially mothers, adding to their already high-levels of stress, anxiety and depression. We know mental health is important right now.

What Freeland understands is that if we invest in child care and maintain that investment, the broader benefits to society can be measured in at least a 1.2% gain to the economy says Freeland.

“It’s expensive, but it’s an investment worth making,” Freeland said. And it is an investment.

Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway and Iceland have free childcare and their economies have been strong and stable for decades. As a result, they have higher education levels for women and more women in the workforce including in management roles.

With the $30 Billion, right away $27.2 Billion will be used to assist the provinces and territories to participate in a 50/50 cost sharing. Over the next five years, the government wants to get child care costs for families down to $10/day per child in a family. As opposed to today’s average of $23/day outside of Quebec, which has child care programs. But the program that will bring costs to $10/day will also take about five years to implement as the feds work to get the provinces on board. No small task.

So to ensure the provinces get on board, women across Canada need to speak up. To contact their provincial MLA’s and MP’s and remind them to work together on this program. The federal government will, hopefully, do its part, but as citizens, women need to keep up the noise to ensure this happens. It’s not a sure thing. Keep that in mind. One way you can get involved is through the Canadian Childcare Federation, who are maintaining pressure on the provincial and federal governments.

Some of that budget will also be used to create better access for children with disabilities. Another $2.5 Billion has been allocated for much needed child care for Indigenous children and after school programs for them.

After this initial spend, the government is indicating that they’ll commit $8.3 Billion a year going forwards to maintaining the child care system. This is important because many programs are deployed for a short time, then end. An effective investment such as this needs to be long-term, not a one-off.

A recent TD Bank study suggests that such an investment will actually result in more money being put back into the economy. The TD study suggests that for every dollar invested in child care, between $1.50 and $2.80 “comes back to the broader economy.”

Canada needs better investment into women as a whole, not just child care, but this is important to recovering from the “she-cession” and ensuring more women can stay in and enter the workforce.

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