Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Child Care and the Harper Agenda: Transforming Canada's Social Policy Regime

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Child Care and the Harper Agenda: Transforming Canada's Social Policy Regime

Article excerpt


This article examines the changing child care policy landscape in Canada, as indicative of the fundamental shiftthat is happening in Canada's social policy regime under the Harper Conservative government. It begins by reviewing the policy choices made by the current federal government in the area of early learning and child care, including the cancellation of the Bilateral Agreements on Early Learning and Child Care and their replacement with the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) and the Child Care Spaces Initiative (CCSI). It then argues that through these approaches social reproduction, federalism, and advocacy have been recast to promote familialism, residualism and exclusion in Canada's welfare state. As a result, rights related to gender equality, social citizenship and representation have been seriously undermined.

Keywords: Child care policy; social policy analysis; gender equality; democracy


Cet article examine le contexte changeant des politiques sur la garde des enfants, comme étant représentatif d'un déplacement fondamental du régime de politique sociale au Canada, qui a eu lieu sous le gouvernement conservateur de Stephen Harper. Les choix de politiques sociales qui ont été pris par le présent gouvernement fédéral reliés à la garde des enfants et à l'éducation de la petite-enfance, incluant l'annulation des accords fédéraux-provinciaux en matière d'apprentissage et de garde de jeunes enfants, remplacés par la prestation universelle pour la garde d'enfants (PUGE), et l'initiative sur les places en garderie (IPG). Je propose qu'à travers ces approches, la reproduction sociale, le fédéralisme et la mobilisation ont été ré-imaginé afin de promouvoir le familialisme, le résidualisme, et l'exclusion dans l'état providence canadien. Ceci a eu comme résultat que les droits reliés à l'égalité des genres, la citoyenneté sociale et la représentation, ont été gravement compromise.

Mots-clefs : Politique de la garde des enfants; analyse de politique sociale; égalité entre les genres; démocratie.


Child care is an excellent lens through which to analyze the immense social policy transformation taking place under the Harper Conservatives. While it may appear that there has been little federal action in the area of social policy, including early learning and child care, over the last eight years of Conservative governance, a closer examination reveals a careful reconfiguration of the familial, social citizenship and representational order of Canada. After a brief overview of the policy landscape, I argue that Harper's child care policy is changing Canada's gender regime along at least three axes: social reproduction, federalism, and advocacy.

The Policy Landscape

In public policy studies, students are taught that public policy includes both government action and inaction (Pal 2013). Accordingly, Pasolli and Young (2012) stress the importance of considering when governments choose not to act in child care policy.1 What the Conservatives have not done is invest in building a pan-Canadian, public system of early learning and child care of the sort that exists in many other advanced industrialized countries and has been sought by the advocacy community for over forty years. In fact, the previous steps taken in this direction by the Martin Liberal government were quickly reversed by the Conservatives.

In the early 2000s, three federal/provincial/territorial (FPT) agreements were struck to transfer funds from the federal government to the provinces and territories for services related to early learning, development and care, as part of the National Children's Agenda. In 2000, the Early Childhood Development Agreement (ECDA) was introduced to channel $2.2 billion of investment over five years into four areas: healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy; parenting and family supports; early childhood development, learning and care; and community supports. …

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