Canadians want to make family a priority – 85 per cent want to spend more time with their families and 60 per cent want governments to support policy changes that make it easier to raise a family, according to a national poll by McAllister Opinion Research about research led by University of British Columbia professor Paul Kershaw.
“Despite having all the amenities of modern life, two-thirds of Canadians resist the idea that today’s families have it easier than in the past,” said Kershaw. The McAllister poll examined public attitudes about the degree to which we prioritize family time and responsibility in this country. This is the second set of data to come out of the poll; earlier data examined Canadians’ attitudes about public funding priorities.
The poll shows that 60 per cent of Canadians ‘agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’ that ‘compared to what is spent in other areas, Canadian governments do not do enough for families raising young kids today.’ Accordingly, 60 per cent indicated they would ‘vote for a politician who has publicly committed to fighting for better government policies for families with young children.’
Kershaw, an associate professor at UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), said, “it is far more common that today both parents need to work in order to eke out a standard of living that is often lower than one salary could achieve a generation ago.”
The poll reveals that 62 per cent of Canadians think it’s a good idea to invest in ‘New Mom and New Dad benefits,’ which would make it affordable for all parents, including the self-employed, to spend up to 18 months at home with newborns – splitting the leave between moms and dads.
Sixty-six per cent of Canadians think it’s a good idea to ‘subsidize $10-a-day quality child care’ and 80 per cent of Canadians think it’s a good idea to invest in more flex-time, allowing parents more flexibility and time at home.
Recognizing that Canada is experiencing tough economic times, the poll shows that Canadians are willing to make hard choices to pay for these programs and services including revisiting sacred cows like medical care increases, or tax cuts.
When asked specifically about reallocating recent spending increases from medical care and investing it in family policy instead, only 37 per cent of Canadians responded that this was a ‘bad idea,’ compared to 42 per cent that thought it is a ‘good idea,’ and 21 per cent that were unsure.
More Canadians also think it is a ‘good idea’ than a ‘bad idea’ for all Canadians to contribute to new family policies through their income taxes, including a slim majority of Canadians under 45.
Kershaw noted that combined federal, provincial, and municipal revenue is down more than $90 billion as a share of our economy today compared to 1980, while over the same period, medical care spending is up $47 billion.
“When we choose to cut the total revenue pie by $90 billion, but increase the slice for medical care by $47 billion, we leave $137 billion less for other priorities. The generation raising young kids is definitely feeling this pinch, because it now means Canada has very weak family policy by international standards.”
Kershaw released this data on February 7 in Ottawa following an invited presentation to the Government of Canada Standing Committee on Health.
Last fall, UBC Professor Paul Kershaw and colleagues at HELP compared the costs of living, household incomes and services available to families in Canada today with those during the 1970s and found that young couples today are raising families with less money and time than the Baby Boomer generation.
Kershaw has proposed policy changes to make it easier to raise a family, called the ‘New Deal for Families.’ These changes include enabling mothers and fathers to stay at home with newborns until they reach at least 18 months of age, providing quality child care services that cost no more than $10 per day, and allowing employees and employers to use flex-time to better balance time spent at work with time spent at home.
These most recent polling data shows that the majority of Canadians support the ‘New Deal for Families.’ Recognizing that Canada is experiencing tough economic times, the poll also shows that Canadians are willing to make hard choices to pay for these programs and services including revisiting sacred cows like medical care increases, or tax cuts.
“The cost of the New Deal for Families would amount to less than a cup of coffee and doughnut at Tim Hortons: $1.67 per day and the poll showed us that more than half of Canadians are willing to spend that on investing in families,” said Kershaw.
In partnership with YMCA across Canada, Kershaw has embarked on a national speaking tour asking communities across the country: Does Canada Work for All Generations? Kershaw will be in Ottawa on February 8 as part of the tour, hosted by the National Association of Children and Youth and the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region. For more information, visit: http://www.ymcaywca.ca/whats-happening/314/
Funding and community partners in BC helped to launch the national tour, including the Vancouver Foundation, United Way of the Lower Mainland, YWCA Metro Vancouver and the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.