A new report from the Fraser Institute suggests Quebec's universal daycare system is expensive, has long wait times and produces poorer developmental outcomes for children.
The think tank's report, Quebec's Daycare Program: A Flawed Policy Model, argues that while advocates of such a program, including some in B.C., point to Quebec as a model for success, the reality is much different.
"Some of the claims made to support it — that it pays for itself, eliminates wait lists and consistently benefits children — aren't supported by the evidence," report co-author Ben Eisen is quoted as saying in an accompanying media release.
The report argues that while a universal daycare program increases labour force participation, the economic benefits from such increased participation do not offset the costs of daycare, and the "best scenario" still costs the provincial government $1.2 billion annually.
It also argues that there is little evidence of cognitive improvement in children in Quebec's universal daycare system.
"Instances of hyperactivity, aggression, and anxiety all increased measurably in the years following Quebec's policy change. Negative effects on motor and social development were also found."
The report says the "universal" daycare program has tens of thousands of children on waiting lists and recommends governments provide resources "directly to families to help them cover the costs of whatever approach to childcare works best for them."
'Ours is a made-in-B.C. model'
Sharon Gregson, a $10-a-day child care advocate with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., called the report a "weak" attack on the sort of program her group wants to see in this province.
"They say we're basing the $10-a-day plan exclusively on the Quebec experience and we're somehow claiming Quebec's child care system is perfect, and that's simply not true," she said.
"We have said, since the plan launched in 2011, that we can learn from the experience in Quebec…. Their system has faults, but ours is a made-in-B.C. model."
However, she says other economists have come to different, positive conclusions about the economic benefits of Quebec's program and maintains a $10-a-day plan could pay for itself in B.C.
She adds the model she is advocating for aims to ramp up over eight to 10 years, unlike Quebec, which she says expanded too rapidly resulting in some of the quality of care issues.
She also wants to see a B.C. model include funding for professional development of child care providers.
She says her group is aware of Quebec's waiting list problems, but "they're able to offer child care to 55 percent of Quebec's children. We can't even offer 20 percent of care to British Columbia's children."
Gregson also criticized the report for its silence on subsidized daycare's impact on women's equality.
She also says the recommendation that subsidies or vouchers provided directly to families will not create new child care spaces.