Stephen Lewis is fired up.
In a keynote address to the Child Care 2020 conference in Winnipeg, the former Canadian ambassador to the UN ripped apart the Conservatives' claim that their new income splitting tax scheme and expanded Universal Child Care benefit will offer meaningful help to families struggling with their child care needs.
That's just "financial rubbish" -- as well as "spurious and absurd," Lewis told Child Care 2020, which wraps up Saturday.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with child care," said Lewis. "Why would anyone allow them to sell that?"
Rather, "it's a debate about tax policy. It's a debate about tax benefits. It's not a debate about child care."
Lewis has a point.
A recent report from the Moving Child Care Forward Project found that Canada only has enough child care spaces for 22.5% of all children up to five years old; across the country, 69.7% of mothers of children between 0 and two years old and 76.6% of mothers of children between the ages of three and five participate in the labour force.
But a $160 monthly baby bonus won't create one child care space, despite a price tag of over $26 billion. The Conservative tax cut, meanwhile, will see the majority of families with kids receive no benefit. And among those families that will qualify for the income splitting scheme, the benefits skew heavily toward the wealthiest families.
Together, this "Family Tax Plan" doesn't go far in covering child care costs that are now as high as a median monthly fee of $1,324 for toddlers in Toronto.