Blog | March 27, 2013

A letter to MLA Hehr, from Rachel McDougall-Sutherland, Calgary, Alberta.
Dear Mr Hehr:I am a working, middle class mother in your constituency. I earn an average salary as an administrative technical worker at an oil and gas firm. My husband works in computer desktop support. We own a small condo in Calgary with a mortgage, and we have a daughter aged 20 months.As it stands today, I am struggling without government assistance in order to keep working and support my family. The single most important and costly issue I face is my daycare bill that overwhelms my monthly salary. My husband and I are unable to obtain current Government subsidies as we make more money than $55K/year. I went back to work after 10 months of maternity leave because EI benefits weren't sufficient to cover the cost of food, clothing, modest housing, as well as our utility costs. If we are struggling, then the overwhelming majority of Canadians who earn much less than my husband and I, must also be struggling.For a single 12 month old child, day homes in Calgary costs approximately $12,000/year. Most daycares in Calgary can cost anywhere from $1100-$1700/month for an infant child (12 months). That is $13,200-$20,400/year.As of of February 2013 I have found the following Calgary daycare rates on a web search:
  • YMCA Calgary advertises $925/month (for aged 2 and up) but will not accept infants www.ymcacalgary.org
  • Kid’s & Company $1700/month Calgary Eau Claire, no fees listed on their website, fees can be confirmed at info@kidsandcompany.ca
  • Bow Valley Child Care Infant Room $1200/month www.bvccc.ca
  • Children’s Creative Learning Centre Nursery I & II $1145/month www.cclccalgary.com
To put this in perspective, according to Calgary Real Estate Board, (www.creb.com) the median price for single family home in Calgary in Feb 2013 is $442,000. This means, in most cases, that monthly daycare costs are similar, to the cost of a mortgage.According to www.rentfaster.ca, the average 2 bedroom unit in a home or apartment with access to necessities like a grocery store, a transit station, or other amenities starts at $1000/month in many neighborhoods around Calgary. In more convenient neighborhoods nearer to our work, the rent is significantly higher. With a 1.6% vacancy rate in Calgary as of Feb 2013, those rates will only climb.Research indicates monthly costs for families living in major centers like Calgary and Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver are: (in fact the cost of living exclusive of housing is much higher in Alberta than in the rest of Canada):Housing costs (rent or mortgage) $1500
Transportation(two adult bus passes) $188Utilities (electricity $80/month, water and heat $200/month) $280Food (including diapers) $500
Clothing $150
Tenant Insurance $50
Bank Fees $30
Dental/Medical $100
Daycare $1000Total Basic Expenses $3798/monthBased upon CRA tax calculations/CMHC guidelines a family would need before tax income of $72,000 per annum to pay these bills. According to Statistics Canada, the average family in Canada earns much less, approximately $50,000 per annum. This budget does not represent a family with a vehicle and its inherent costs, property taxes, Life Insurance, home repairs, RESP Savings for the child’s education, RRSPs for retirement, and sports or arts activities for any family member, or any family entertainment budget which could add hundreds more. Also, the average Canadian family is carrying $37,000 in consumer debt/student loans which is not accounted for within this budget.When one considers; women make 75% of their male counterpart's salaries, women are generally considered the primary parent by law, and single women are responsible for child care, and typically for all of the bills; daycare has become the single most important factor determining women’s rights and freedom in Canada.I have a great marriage and I am lucky, but I simply could not do this with a single income. I reach out for assistance to you now, not for myself, but for the preponderance of others who are not so fortunate. The burden of childcare is placed disproportionately at the feet of working mothers. The current government neither truly assists with daycare, nor does it make any worthwhile effort to assure that single mothers are assisted by recalcitrant fathers, thus leaving a plurality bearing a burden which they cannot reasonably carry and leaving the rest of Canadians with the problems a single mother cannot reasonably solve by herself.As a representative of all people, you understand these burdens and complications. As someone who has worked with disadvantaged individuals, you must understand the plight of these women who stay in bad marriages to afford support to their children. These women, who are struggling to develop well rounded self-sufficient children are abused because they can not afford to leave their households.The $100/month taxable child payments from the federal government do not cover one tenth of regular daycare expenses in Calgary, and only act as a talking point in debate to defer the issue of equal rights for women in Canada. An annual $7,000 daycare tax credit does little to cover up front costs, and only serves a portion of help to a certain segment of the population that do not live in these higher cost areas. Women who are fortunate enough to have space or the income to accommodate live-in help still get these benefits, and a working mother with a two bedroom apartment is at a disadvantage. As my representative in the Alberta Legislature, and as a human, I ask you to take up this issue and represent all Canadian women who are currently so woefully under represented. These amounts of taxable child benefits becomes problematic and very unCanadian answer to this situation.There are many avenues the current government could pursue such as raising the income threshold from $55,00/year for daycare subsidy to $75,000/year, which would allow middle class families to save for their children's education, stimulate the economy, and give more women the freedom to go back to work and off welfare payments. The average Canadian would be significantly less indebted. In addition single mothers could be subsidized with real assistance in the form of a government run daycare programs that cater specifically to women in crisis situations or need to allow them equality among their female peers. A national daycare program would work towards better competition for spaces, and better pricing regulations for daycares who are clearly out to gouge working middle class mothers. Quebec mothers pay $7/day in daycare, and the average cost for daycare in Alberta is $48/day.However, overwhelmingly it seems that the most cost effective Canadian answer to this problem is a national daycare system. In the meantime, understanding the current Alberta budget shortfalls, and current economic conditions in Alberta, we need to look for opportunities for Albertans to succeed with their families and pay more taxes eventually. Otherwise the burden of providing for the youth of Canada will be unreasonably placed upon working mo
thers. As my representative, I anticipate you
will be incensed by this idea and will work hard to aid the poor, the dislocated, and the disadvantaged who are now disproportionately represented by the women of Canada.Thank you in advance for your support.Best regardsRachel McDougall-Sutherland, Calgary, Alberta.