Time for federal family policy to grow up: study

January 27, 2015

OTTAWA—The current federal government's approach to family policy is falling short of the needs of parents, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, by Kate McInturff, Director of CCPA's Making Women Count project, and David Macdonald, CCPA Senior Economist, finds complicated tax benefits that go largely to the well-off families do nothing to address the needs of families today. Instead, it calls for access to affordable childcare, improved leave for fathers, and tax policies that level the playing field in order to improve the quality of family life in Canada.

"Today's families are not living in a world of limitless choices," says McInturff. "Parents are making difficult decisions about how to do best by their children, their employers and each other."

According to the study, childcare is perhaps the most significant lever available to governments seeking to help parents balance work and family life. There are over a million children under the age of five whose parents both work but only half a million regulated, centre-based childcare spaces to support them.

"The Quebec model has shown that $7-day daycare is possible in Canada," says Macdonald. "Quebec families have been given a level of flexibility with daycare unimagineable in the rest of Canada. That flexibility has allowed more women to work if they choose while encouraging a slightly higher fertility rate. In fact, the program is now producing more in new tax dollars than it costs."

The study finds there is a significant unmet need for parental leave that responds to the distinct economic and social pressures faced by men. Quebec is the only province to offer leave specifically for fathers. As a result, 76% of fathers in Quebec are now taking leave, compared to 26% of fathers in the rest of the country.

The study also analyzes the cost and distributional impact of income splitting for families with children under 18 and finds:

  • 89% of all families (not only those with children) will gain nothing from income splitting.
  • Only 52% of families with children under 18 will receive any benefit from income splitting—and that is only if they can navigate up to 85 additional steps on their tax forms.
  • Of that 52% who gain, 20% will receive roughly a dollar a day. Two out of three of the richest 1% of families will get at least $1000 from income splitting.
  • Income splitting will also have a significant negative effect on Canada's labour force and on the economic security of women.
  • Tax policies that increase income inequality within families (such as income splitting), have a negative impact on family stability and well-being.

"The federal government's policies for families are falling short of the needs of parents," concludes McInturff. "The work and family lives of Canadians have evolved over the past three decades. It's time our family policies grew up, too."


Time to Grow Up: Family Policies for the Way We Live Now is available on the CCPA website: http://policyalternatives.ca/grow-up

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.