Friday, December 2, 2011

Models and Spit-Takes

I would have spit out my drink had I been drinking when I read a tweet that suggested that Quebec's child care program was seen as a model for the rest of Canada.  Why?  Well, nearly everything that the provincial government of Quebec touches tends to be broken, and the day care program is not an exception.  Of course, it is not an exception to the general rule that corruption is quite a problem.

Yes, it was a lovely idea that anyone could get day care for $5 per day per child, but campaign promises often mean to problematic entitlement programs.  Others have done the math of the equity of it all, I just want to be simplistic and note that there is no means-testing.  So rich folks and poor folks get the same benefit.  This seems problematic to me as this "equity" means that the government is on the hook for heaps and heaps of child care which it cannot afford to support.  So, the government cannot fill all the desired need for subsidized day care, which means waiting lists.  Ah, and there in lays one of the two rubs (the second being that this is an incredibly expensive entitlement program since day care does not cost $5 or now $7  a day--that is just the cost paid by the parents). 

So, with waiting lists, the poor folks that before could not afford day care now have to wait alongside the rich folks could afford it before (and still can in the interim since they go to the unsubsidized option).  Those waits can last quite a long time so that baby Jean is out of diapers perhaps. 

Anyhow, the point is that a campaign promise distorted the market, became an expensive entitlement, and actually misses a significant hunk of the people who needed some day care help.  And now, well, another program subject to the temptations of corruption perhaps. 

I am only an observer as my daughter was beyond the age of day care by the time we got here, but the entire program fell into the category of "if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably isn't that good."

I am not sure that Harper's programs are much better, and I do think that this is an important issue. Still, I am glad that Canada ducked that bullet of imitating Quebec's program. 

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