Monday, May 01, 2006

On backup plans

The Cons can't say they weren't warned about the lack of interest in their scheme to create child-care spaces through corporate tax credits. But in case there was any hope left that spaces would be created under the plan, a survey by CTV should put an end to the notion, as even corporate figures with an interest in tax incentives generally won't claim there's any likelihood of success:
An informal CTV News survey found that not many major employers are interested in creating new child-care spaces for their employees' children -- even if the upcoming federal budget offers tax incentives to do so...

"A day-care centre at our downtown office is not the optimal solution for most of our employees," said Karen Wensley, a human resources specialist with Ernst and Young.

"It wouldn't make sense for us to provide day care for each of these branches," said Ann Leckie of VanCity...

"I'm a big believer in tax incentives," said John Watts, president of General Dynamics Canada, whose firm has company sports teams. "Whether it would make any difference with day care, I couldn't say."
If there's any good news in the apparent lack of interest in the program, it's that the Cons surely can't argue that there's no need for a backup plan when the targets of the tax credit have absolutely no interest in making use of it. And that could sow the seeds of a compromise on child-care space creation.

After all, the Cons' current plan involves continuing to fund the provinces until March 31, 2007. Assuming companies can be required to notify the federal government in advance of any intention to use the tax credit, it should be abundantly clear by then whether or not any of the money allotted to child-care space creation will be used for the 2006 taxation year. (Even if an advance notice requirement can't be built into the credit, it shouldn't be difficult to monitor any announced intentions to offer child care under the plan.)

Since the Cons themselves would presumably consider it a failure for the pool of child-care money go untouched without any spaces being created, it would only make sense to work out a deal with the provinces to transfer any unused amount of the credit in order to allow for space creation under the existing provincial plans (or better yet, an NDP-drafted child care framework).

Naturally there'd be plenty to be worked out about such a plan. In particular, there would be an obvious need to expand the pool of money available: even with advance notice both the NDP and Lib plans involved substantially more money going to the provinces than the Cons have set aside, and any deal would have the added disadvantage that provinces wouldn't know for sure how much money was available under the first few months of each year. The exact terms of any transfer to the provinces would also have to be hashed out...which could be complicated all the more by the need for multiple federal parties involved.

But on the whole, a solution along these lines would seem to be one of the better possible outcomes. The Cons could claim to have made their best effort to give the private sector the first crack at expanding child care, while the provinces would likely receive enough money at the end of the day to proceed with at least part of their previous plans. And assuming that businesses don't take the Cons up on their tax incentives, it shouldn't be long before the provinces would make a concerted push for increased stable funding, this time armed with proof that the Cons' own plan for private-sector expansion has failed.

(Edit: cleaned up wording.)

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