Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for this invitation.
Child Care Now, which is also known as the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, acts on behalf of a broad range of voices across Canada who want high-quality, affordable, inclusive early learning and child care for families and all children. It's particularly fitting that we appear before you during Canada's first ever Gender Equality Week, which was established through an act of Parliament this year. In promoting this week, the Government of Canada has rightly said that, when we make progress toward gender equality, everyone benefits. We say, backed by mountains of evidence, that we can't make progress toward gender equality without a publicly funded, universally accessible system of early childhood education and child care.
In July 2017, the IMF reported that Canadian female labour force participation lags that of males by 10%, concluding that family policy change, particularly public spending on child care, is essential to realize women's full potential in the workforce.
In March 2018, the same message was echoed by the Governor of the Bank of Canada in a widely reported speech in which he outlined the economic benefits of helping more women, as well as other under-represented groups, to enter the job market. This could expand the labour force by half a million people, raising the country's output by $30 billion, or 1.5% annually. He pointed to affordable, accessible, publicly funded child care as the right tool to achieve this for women.
This year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released its study of women's economic security and the future of the Canadian economy. Not surprisingly, it, too, identified child care as a first measure to increase women's access to the labour force and increase their economic security.
For decades, a multitude of voices have implored governments for action on child care. Study after study, including that of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada 50 years ago and this very committee's own report on last year's budget, recommended that the federal government assume leadership.
We applaud the current government for putting child care back in the federal budgets in 2016 and 2017 and for its commitment to long-term annual funding. We congratulate the federal, provincial and territorial governments for reaching a multilateral agreement on child care in 2017, all followed up with three-year bilateral agreements. We particularly welcome the announcement only last week of the agreement between the federal government and indigenous leaders setting a framework to address the urgent child care needs of Canada's indigenous peoples and communities.
However, this progress, while important, is only a beginning. It's not yet as ambitious as it could be, not as far-reaching as it should be and could therefore easily be rolled back. We know from the experience of other countries and the research conducted over many years that child care is essential to economic growth, to women's equality and economic security, and to the positive development of children and the well-being of families.
Not all types of child care will yield these positive and necessary outcomes. To move from Canada's current market approach to child care to a high-quality universal system is an enormous multi-year undertaking by all levels of government, including the indigenous governing structures as equal partners.
The multilateral framework and bilateral agreements now in place set out good principles, but the agreements fail to articulate steps with timelines for putting in place a child care system that can succeed. Also, the federal funding plan is not adequate to support the achievement of these principles.
We therefore ask this committee to recommend the following:
First, we recommend a boost in funding for the provincial and territorial transfers for child care. The current annual commitments do not ramp up enough each year to allow for the building of a high-quality, affordable child care system. We recommend instead an annual allocation of $1 billion for child care, starting in 2019 and adding an additional $1 billion each year that follows until annual spending reaches the international minimum benchmark of 1% of GDP.
Second, we recommend an implementation plan developed by governments and indigenous organizations with input from the child care sector and others to operationalize the principles and intentions set out in the multilateral framework agreement.
Third, we recommend the development and implementation of a Canada-wide system-building strategy, again, one that's developed by the provinces, territories, indigenous organizations, and the Government of Canada, with the full input from the child care sector and communities. This strategy must include funding to develop and support an early childhood education workforce strategy, funding to create the infrastructure needed to develop public and not-for-profit child care services across Canada and the reinstatement of funding to rebuild the child care sector's infrastructure, including child care organizations. We appreciate that a fourth system-building element, funds for a day care and child care data strategy have already been allocated.
Thank you very much.