Montreal – As the debate continues over increasing public funding to expand access to daycare, a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy examines the factors driving Quebec’s exceptionalism in providing this service.
Until now, researchers have focused on understanding why the federal government has failed to implement an ambitious publicly-funded daycare program. Very few have looked at why the provinces, aside from Quebec, have not acted more boldly in this area.
Under Quebec’s daycare program, established by a Parti québécois government in 1997, the fee paid by parents was initially $5 a day for each child. “Quebec has been a leader among provinces in this field, spending on average $4,800 per year for each child age five and under in 2013-2014. Compared to other provinces, Manitoba was a distant second at $1,648 per child,” say the study’s authors, Gabriel Arsenault, Olivier Jacques and Antonia Maioni.
Based on a critical survey of the literature, they identify three key factors to explain Quebec’s distinct path: the presence of a progressive government as a proponent, a less polarized party system, and a broad consensus among political parties and civil society actors that child care is a provincial responsibility.
The authors demonstrate that in party systems that are more polarized than Quebec’s, right-leaning governments have often limited spending and even abolished some ambitious programs created by progressive governments, as happened in British Columbia in 2001.
They acknowledge that as party systems evolve in some provinces and the attitudes towards publicly funded child care change, Quebec’s exceptionalism might not last.
Gabriel Arsenault is an assistant professor of political science at Moncton University. Olivier Jacques is a doctoral candidate in the department of political science at McGill University. Antonia Maioni is the dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill University and a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Institute of Social Policy and Health.
Les Services de garde subventionnés : L’exception du Québec dans le contexte fédéral by Gabriel Arsenault, Olivier Jacques et Antonia Maioni, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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