Voices around Partnering and Parenting"
1-2 November 2002
Patterns of Representation:
The politics of "children", "families", "women"
(St Mary's University)
(University of Montreal)
do not quote without permission
project FOSTERING SOCIAL COHESION: A COMPARISON OF NEW POLICY
STRATEGIES has the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). For other papers in the project
countries move away from the cuts and constraints of neo-liberalism
into an era dominated by what Sylvia Bashevkin (2002) terms post-conservative
elites and by what many have labelled "Third Way politics",
key dimensions of citizenship regimes are being redefined. This
redesign of citizenship discourses and practices has a crucial impact
on the re-structuring of care and welfare. In Canada, for example,
because the nature and forms of representation have changed, there
have been shifts with respect to who can gain access to the
policy process as a legitimate voice for those in need of state
benefits and services. This has had, and will continue to have fundamental
implications for both the coalition-building practices of social
movement organisations and the substance of their claims-making.
this paper we highlight the fact that there has been a displacement
of claims-making in the name of "women," and a strengthening
of claims for "children" and especially "poor children".
Those advocating in the name of women find themselves increasingly
excluded and/or find themselves compelled to use the language of
"children's needs". Whereas notions of social rights in
citizenship regimes in the 1960s and 1970s accommodated an equality
discourse that provided some space for women and women's movements
to make claims for services and supports, transit through the era
of neo-liberalism both effectively side-lined talk of social rights
and spending and made equality claims for adults difficult to sustain.
One result was that, when governments began to consider the possibility
of "investing" again, after years of cutbacks and downsizing,
the social investments envisaged frequently focussed on children,
leaving in the shadows the women who provided their care (as well
as care for others) and rendering invisible class, gender and other
structures of inequality.
slide from one regime to another is a result of state policies,
to be sure. There are two reasons for this. First, states have the
power to grant the status of citizen, to ensure that all (or only
some) citizens achieve full citizenship, and maintain (or eliminate)
the status of second-class citizenship. The second reason is that
as theorists have asserted for years, the space for social movements
to act depends on - without being determined by - the political
opportunity structure. In our analysis, then, the actions of social
movement organisations are understood to be profoundly shaped by
the policy directions adopted by the governments they seek to influence,
as the latter make changes to systems of welfare and care.
the same time, however, we also document that the claims mounted
for citizenship depend on the internal life of movements, their
resolution of strategic dilemmas, battles over names, representation
and action. Both the "cool calculations" of a framing
approach to social movements (Benford and Snow, 2000; Ferree and
Merrill, 2000) and an action-centred analysis of the "naming
work" of social movements (Jenson, 1995), direct attention
to the internal life of social movements and their organisations.
In particular, movements have the capacity through strategic choices
of names and frames to make gains as well as to fall by the wayside,
to block or to aid their opponents and, in general, to shape the
universe of political discourse within which the citizenship regime
takes shape and is consolidated.
regimes and representation
the concept of citizenship regime we mean the institutional
arrangements, rules and understandings that guide and shape concurrent
policy decisions and expenditures of states, problem definitions
by states and citizens, and claims-making by citizens. A citizenship
regime encodes within it a paradigmatic representation of identities,
of the "national" as well as the "model citizen", the
second-class citizen, and the non-citizen. It also encodes representations
of the proper and legitimate social relations among and within these
categories, as well as the borders of "public" and "private".
It makes, in other words, a major contribution to the definition
of politics which organises the boundaries of political debate and
problem recognition in each jurisdiction.
are four elements of a citizenship regime, and each contributes
to setting its boundaries and giving content to the institutions
and actions that sustain it:
involves the expression of basic values about the responsibility
mix, defining the boundaries of state responsibilities and
differentiating them from those of markets, of families and of
communities. The result is definition of "how we wish to
produce welfare", whether via purchased welfare, via the
reciprocity of kin, via collective support in communities, or
via collective and public solidarity, that is state provision.
formal recognition of particular rights and responsibilities
(civic, political, social, and cultural; individual and collective)
a citizenship regime establishes the boundaries of inclusion and
exclusion of a political community. In doing so, it identifies
those entitled to full citizenship status and those who only,
in effect, hold second-class status. Identities of "bearers
of rights" and the "excluded" take on meaning according
to these patterns, for example.
citizenship regime also prescribes governance practices. Among
these are democratic rules, including the institutional
mechanisms giving access to the state, the modes of participation
in civic life and public debates and the legitimacy of specific
types of claims-making. It sketches routes to representation,
the ways in which legitimate voices are recognised and actors
provided entry into the policy process.
citizenship regime also contributes to the definition of nation,
in both the narrow passport-holding sense of nationality and the
more complicated notion of national identity and its geography.
It thereby establishes the boundaries of belonging and
the national identities associated with it, including those of
this paper we examine the actions of social movement organisations,
interest associations and groupings of experts in Canada, as they
participate in debates regarding conceptions of citizenship that
involve of each of these dimensions.
do this by focusing on one issue about care and welfare that, from
at least the start of the second wave of the women's movement, has
been clearly identified as key to women's economic autonomy and
well-being: that of child care. We also track what has happened
to this concern, along with women's claims for gender equality and
recognition, as "child poverty" becomes a major preoccupation
and "investing in children" becomes one of the top items
on the political agenda.
care as a "women's issue"
the post-1945 citizenship regimes of Canada, child care for working
parents was not much considered, and the notion that access to child
care was a citizenship right seemed farfetched. By the 1970s and
1980s, however, both child care as a universal citizenship right
and women's equality rights were being promoted. Indeed, these concerns
dovetailed, as activists made the claim that universal, quality
child care would enable women to gain economic equality.
meant that all Canadians should be able to afford child care. "Quality"
meant a service that was much more than simply custodial, that was
more than a safe place to leave children while their parents are
at work. Good non-parental care would foster healthy child development.
These goals appealed to many advocates of women's rights, children's
rights and the labour movement (Rothman and Kass, 1999: 261). Therefore,
mobilisation in these years involved an alliance of feminists and
child care advocates; indeed, they were often the same persons.
As we shall see, this coalition never achieved its long-standing
goal of "a publicly funded, comprehensive, high-quality system
of child care accessible to all families," however (White,
the first decades of the post-1945 citizenship regime, access to
child care rarely surfaced when the situation of "working mothers"
was assessed. Indeed, this silence on the part of women who a
priori seemed in need of services was puzzling for the
state feminists and community organisations examining the situation.
One result was that as the state did move into the field in the
1960s, the initial design of its limited publicly funded
child care was dominated by a "social welfare" interpretation
of the issue; there was very little public support for any other
framing of the issue (Mahon, 2000).
in 1965, the federal and provincial governments financed subsidies
for the child care services of those "in need or in danger
of becoming in need" (Mahon and Phillips, 2002: 191-92). Programmes
were designed by a network of social workers, before the
launching of second-wave feminism. Ideas about families, gender
relations and children used in this policy community fitted into
the prevailing liberal assumptions about the limited safety-net
role for the state and the sanctity of the male-breadwinner family
form. As Mahon and Phillips put it (2002: 196): "child care
was one of the 'rehabilitative services' whose primary aim was 'to
enable the individual to attain or regain the fullest measure of
self support of which he is capable.' And the officials clearly
saw that individual as 'he'."
however, by the late 1960s and 1970s, and as social movement actors
with new names gained influence, social movement organisations of
second-wave "feminism" and "community development"
activists did begin to advocate for a publicly funded and universal
child care system, seeing it as necessary for the achievement of
their goals for social change. Claims that child care was what we
could term a right of citizenship started to gain some visibility,
and such representations began to challenge the narrow representation
of child care as a "welfare" service.
as a response to social movement struggles in this period, and in
an effort to forge innovative links with civil society organisations,
the federal government and some provinces began to provide financial
support for community development. In cities such as Montreal, Toronto
and Vancouver these groups often included a call for universal "day
care" in their lists of claims, and they were often influenced
by a feminist interpretation of the reasons why it was needed (Lero,
1992: 371-72; Bélanger and Lévesque, 1992; Mahon and
Phillips, 2002: 197-98). These groups were attempting to re-name
child care as a women's issue as well as one of social justice.
the same time, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW)
helped second-wave feminism of a social liberal variety to gain
a toehold. Here women carved out space to voice their premise that
child care was indispensable to equality of opportunity between
women and men. While the mandate of the Commission, set down in
1967, was clearly within the "paradigm of worker-citizenship"
(Timpson, 2001: 30), it did not mention child care as one of the
necessary ingredients for reconciling work and family. Those who
presented briefs to the RCSW did not hesitate to make the connection,
however (Timpson, 2001: 32):
the 350 written briefs submitted to the commission by individual
and organized women, 78 percent raised concerns about women's employment
or child care. Closer reading to these 273 documents reveals
that while 21.6 percent kept within the confines of the commission's
mandate and focused solely on questions of women's employment opportunities,
74 percent raised concerns about women's employment and the
care of young children….
Commission was influenced by numerous women's groups. There were
well-organised ones, such as the Fédération des
femmes de Québec, which as early as 1965 had put universal
and publicly funded child care on its short list of demands. There
were more informal women's liberation groups and there were union
women. In its 1971 report, the RCSW called for a universal child
care system, one that would be publicly funded and available
to "all families who need and wish to use it" (quoted
in Mahon and Phillips, 2002: 198). Over their four years of learning
about women's situation, the commissioners had come to a clear understanding
that access to child care was a foundational principle for ensuring
"true equality" and wrote the sentence that became a rallying
theme for activists: "the time is past when society can refuse
to provide community child care services in the hope of dissuading
mothers from leaving their children and going out to work"
(quoted in Timpson, 2001: 51). And so, the RCSW recommended that
the federal government take the lead with a national day care act
(Friendly and Oloman, 1996: 273).
the early 1970s, many community organisers, welfare activists, and
other progressives also picked up the call for universal child care,
and they often used a gender equality lens to make their claims.
However, not all feminists were willing to be advocates for child
care. As Susan Prentice (2001: 20) writes: "The relationship
between the women's movement and the child care movement (in Canada
as elsewhere) is complex and contradictory, in part because feminists
are struggling with the vexing meaning and politics of motherhood."
Not all feminists were willing to name themselves "mothers"
and forego the more general name of "women".
elements of the women's movement did consider child care a priority.
For example, some activists in the National Action Committee on
the Status of Women (NAC), began demanding comprehensive childcare
services (Vickers, Rankin and Appelle, 1993: 75) from the organisation's
first year in 1972. Then, as the state began to build its status
of women machinery, with organisations such as the Canadian Advisory
Council on the Status of Women (CACSW), the child care lobby within
the women's movement became more co-ordinated.
grouping, or sub-movement, developed the capacity to pressure from
both without and within. For example, NAC called on the government
to specify that one of the four priorities of the newly established
CACSW would be: "general and accessible child care (with a
recommendation that a federal-provincial conference be held)"
(Vickers, Rankin and Appelle, 1973: 80). Accordingly, two months
after the CACSW was created, in July 1973, it called on "federal,
provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to come to grips
with the problem of child care in Canada" (CACSW, 1993: 86).
In the words of the Advisory Council, it committed itself to developing:
"its vision of a good-quality, non-profit, affordable system
of child care available to anyone across Canada", and to promoting
the position that child care was "an economic necessity for
women" (CACSW, 1993: 87).
was not long, however, before notions of universality shifted. In
fact, critics of the false universality of "womenhood"
quickly appeared within the movement (Dobrowolsky, 1998: Chapter
2). The notion that "all mothers" needed, wanted or preferred
the same child care services was a point of contention.
the 1980s, nonetheless, both the child care community and quasi-state
bodies claimed universal child care in the name of social justice
and of equality of the sexes (Mahon and Phillips, 2002: 200). There
were some modest gains in these years. Various task forces and reports:
"recognized the legitimacy of child care as part of the social
policy spectrum" (Friendly and Oloman, 1996: 273).
the femocrats inside and advocates outside the state ultimately
failed to secure child care legislation founded on the principles
of universality. Despite some reforms, the citizenship regime of
the 1970s never did overwrite the notion that responsibility for
children's well-being resided exclusively with the parents. If public
subsidies for child care services or tax credits for parents were
available, the sole goal was, as quoted above, to allow (the male)
parent to achieve "his" potential.
in the 1980s, the child care advocates stumbled over another dimension
of the citizenship regime, that is the responsibility mix. In particular,
while neo-liberals at the federal level and several provinces argued
for "a level playing field" for commercial operators,
advocates fought long and hard to maintain a focus on non-profit
provision, convinced that was the only way to ensure quality.
came to a head when the Conservative government announced a National
Strategy on Child Care in 1987, which eventually became Bill C-144,
the Canada Child Care Act. Activists from the National
Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) and the CDCAA (Canadian
Day Care Advocacy Association, now the Child Care Advocacy Association
of Canada - CCAAC) worked together to oppose the Bill. Opponents
feared it would have significant implications not only for the responsibility
mix of the citizenship regime by increasing the role of markets,
but it would also undermine their premise that pan-Canadian norms
for services were essential to social citizenship. As one close
observer describes the situation (Timpson, 2001: 153):
care advocates and activists in NAC were enraged by the Bill because
it enhanced the role of the commercial sector in the provision of
child care and relied on the system of tax relief. … For both groups,
the Bill was a travesty. It would finally produce national child
care legislation, for which women had been lobbying since the 1967
Royal Commission on the Status of Women. At the same time, it would
create a new national system of funding child care that was a far
cry from the system of publicly funded, universally accessible child
care for which activists in NAC and the CDCAA had fought for so
NAC and the CDCAA, working with Canadian Labour Congress and other
popular sector groups, opposed the bill (Mahon and Phillips, 2002:
201). The reform died on the order paper when the House rose for
the 1988 election.
their campaign promises, the Tories never did re-visit the child
care issue. In short, the momentum for a pan-Canadian child care
system reached its peak in the 1980s and by the 1990s it began losing
ground. While the Liberals called for quality, accessible child
care in their 1993 campaign manifesto, a position reflecting the
demands of "childcare advocates, social policy experts and
the federal Liberals (in Opposition) since the mid 1980's"
(Friendly and Oloman, 1996: 280), the post-election years brought
something quite different.
care advocacy in the 1990s eventually involved a profoundly different
set of representations and routes to representation. Movements for
children's rights realigned their actions with other coalition partners,
losing in the process any sense that their middle name was "women".
are "out"; children are "in"
shift in patterns of representation became very obvious by the early
1990s. Child care advocates were folded into a larger movement focused
on children and poverty, and in it, increasingly, the women's movement
was sidelined. As Wendy McKeen has detailed, the focus on child
poverty "helped to eliminate the "claims making space,"
accorded to the women's movement" (McKeen, 2001: 19). Therefore,
their capacity for naming the issue was substantially reduced. As
a result, activists who had been involved in both child care
advocacy and feminist politics found themselves concentrating on
forging alliances with the broad social policy community more than
with women's groups.
marginalisation of voices speaking for women can be understood as
the result of two major changes in the representational landscape
and the redesign of the citizenship regime. Each will be dealt with
separately, although the two processes overlapped significantly.
the women's movement
movements have always had multiple tendencies and been composed
of a variety of groups, depending on the universe of political discourse
within which they mobilise (Jenson, 1985). While we can say that
in general the women's movements in Canada, both that operating
at the federal level and that of Quebec have been marginalized in
recent years, in this paper we focus on only one major organisation:
the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, known as NAC.
Committee was created in 1972, as a result of women's mobilisation
around the RCSW and of a recommendation that stemmed from the Commission's
Report. NAC is now a large umbrella group comprised of a wide range
of other associations, all representing women. In its early years,
NAC was headed by white, middle-class women and reflected the priorities
of an interest group trying to cajole the state to take action on
women's concerns. By the 1980s and then into the 1990s, however,
the executive became more diversified, the organisation veered left,
and adopted a more confrontational style. For example, in the late
1980's NAC was headed by Judy Rebick, a well-known leftist (who
had come out of Trotskyism in the 1960s, a range of progressive
causes in the 1970s) who became a powerful spokesperson for opposition
to neo-liberalism. During her presidency, NAC began to contest policies
that were at the heart of the Conservative government's strategy,
ranging from economics to constitutionalism (MacDonald, 1995; Bashevkinl,
1998; Dobrowolsky, 2000).
the second half of the 1980s, Canadian politics was in turmoil and
opposition to the state was lively. The country was going through
a phase of neo-liberal politics and also entering into a free trade
agreement with the United States. At the same time there were wrenching
debates about constitutional reform and national identity. In all
of this NAC emerged as increasingly combative, acting in alliance
with the popular sector to challenge the state (Vickers, Ranking
and Appelle, 1993; Dobrowolsky, 2002). The key battles through these
years, brought NAC into coalition with other movements and groups,
touched on Canadian identity, that is the belonging dimension of
the citizenship regime.
example, when the Conservative government negotiated a Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) with United States, it achieved it goal in 1988
only after a heated debate in many arenas including an election
campaign. NAC was a key actor in the coalition of opponents (Bashevkin,
1989; MacDonald, 1995). Opposition was centred on the idea that
Canada's identity as a more socially progressive country would be
threatened by the FTA and the increasing influence of American corporations
and policies. NAC self-named itself a defender of Canadian national
identity, part of a wide-ranging grouping of almost all progressive
forces in the country operating as the Action Canada Network (Bleyer,
care activists found themselves in the same coalition. Indeed, the
links between activists for child care and women's rights "were
reinforced by their shared concern to challenge both the privatisation
policies of the Conservative government and the potential harmonisation
of social programs under the proposed Free Trade Agreement with
the United States" (Timpson, 2001: 153). However, those calling
for child care never achieved the same visibility that NAC did.
other battle that also touched on belonging in a very direct way
was engaged when NAC and other anglophone feminists rose in opposition
to the Meech Lake Accord (between 1987 and 1990) and the Charlottetown
referendum campaign (1992). Both of these initiatives involved efforts
of the political class to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold
by meeting some of its historic demands for constitutional recognition.
Both failed, and NAC was vociferously in the front line of opposition.
to a progressive vision of feminism had already sprouted in the
1980s with the rise of groups like REAL Women. By 1987, REAL women
was contesting the rules used by the Women's Program within the
Secretary of State for distributing funds to women's groups. Challenges
from other women and right-wing political forces intensified in
the years of constitutional wrangling and especially at the time
of the Charlottetown referendum campaign. At the time, some women
wore buttons proclaiming "NAC does not speak for me,"
while the ascendant Reform party targeted NAC as nothing but a "special
interest" and an elitist one at that. Judy Rebick points to
changes in media portrayals of the women's movement around this
time (Rebick and Roach, 1996: 36):
instructive to look at media coverage of the women's movement in
the eighties versus coverage in the nineties, because it has changed
significantly. In the eighties women's groups...got a lot of coverage...But
things changed in Canada after the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord
in 1992. ... It is my impression that coverage has diminished because
when NAC played such a central role in Charlottetown as a major
leader of the "No" campaign, we overstepped the bounds.
...We had too big an influence on the outcome. The whole attack
on "special interest groups," which had been promoted
for a long time by the federal Tories and the Reform Party started
to be taken up by the media.
assault on "special interests" had consequences for the
state's willingness to support and recognise the women's movement.
When the Conservatives were replaced by the Liberals in 1993, the
new government did not renew its ties to the women's movement and
its organisations. In fact, the Liberal government quickly and without
fanfare dismantled the "Women's State" in 1995. For example,
the CACSW was dissolved and the Women's Program that funded advocacy
organisations was absorbed into Status of Women Canada, a small
transversal department with no line policy responsibilities (Jenson
and Phillips, 1996).
lost the support of the media and of the state, NAC and other organisations
entered into a period of invisibility, surrounded by hostility whenever
they did get any attention. Of course the Canadian women's movement
was not the only one to find itself on the defensive in neo-liberal
times (Bashevkin, 1998). However, the sidelining of NAC and the
de-legitimation of feminism helps to account for why many activists
dropped their middle name and redefined the child care issue as
being overwhelmingly about children. By the mid-1990s, child
care was no longer a "women's issue," whereas, child poverty
became the key concern.
instance, during the hearings on family allowances in 1992, NAC,
the CACSW and the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
put the accent on the implications for "families and the cost
of raising children" if the allowance were eliminated. They
made very few arguments about the consequences for women or for
their access to income that the benefit represented (McKeen, 2001:
was not only women's voices that were side-lined in these years.
Child care advocates were not making headway either. Susan D. Phillips
describes the response to these failures this way (2001: 27):
the mid-1990's, following the failure of a second national childcare
strategy and after federal funding had begun targeting "children
at risk," national organizations devoted to child and family
issues saw that the only way to maintain support for the notion
of universal access to services was to increase the bandwidth of
the message - that is, to establish a more collective and comprehensive
1988 and 1993 the federal government, then still under the Conservatives,
had abandoned any attention to child care, and instead focused exclusively
on low-income and "disadvantaged" children. The citizenship
regime was shifting, in other words, from one committed to support
for all Canadians, to one that was concerned primarily to ensuring
that no one fell out of society. Talk about combating exclusion
replaced that of equality.
design of this shift from universality to targeting was led by the
officials in the Department of Finance and therefore often followed
the tactic of making "social policy by stealth" (Battle,
1993). Popular discussion, however, focused on the "injustice"
of paying a family allowance to the "rich banker's wife"
(Bercuson, et al., 1986: 103). In other words, by the mid-1980s,
the interests of poor children were being pitted against those of
women. It was the wife and not the rich banker who came in for the
scorn, after all.
were increasingly targeted (Jenson, 2000). The universal Family
Allowance created after the Second World War and paid directly to
mothers was first "clawed back" from middle and upper-income
families, and then abolished in 1993. The Child Tax Benefit, targeted
at low-income parents, replaced it. The re-naming from "family"
to "child" was significant; this was only one of many
representational shifts by the state to indicate its new interest
series of actions had already shone the spotlight squarely on children,
and left their parents well in the shadows. In 1989 the House of
Commons unanimously voted a resolution "to seek to achieve
the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year
2000." Prime Minister Mulroney then co-hosted the 1990 World
Summit for Children at the United Nations. In December 1991, Canada
ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite the
doom and gloom about the need to reduce deficits, in 1992 the federal
government instituted two new community development programmes.
These made a direct representational connection between interventions
for young children and community well-being and called on partners
in the community to deliver them. This design was part of the new
governance style popular in the emerging citizenship regime. It
emphasises partnerships across the public and community sectors,
with the public sector financing and the community sector delivering
programme. The first initiative was the Community Action Program
for Children (CAPC), which provides funds to community programmes
targeting children "at-risk" of developmental delays or
because of poverty, teen parents, abuse and so on. The second was
Aboriginal Head Start, initially targeted to off-reserve children.
It provides cultural education as well as remedial work. Also
in 1992 the government announced the Child Development Initiative,
centred on conditions of risk that threaten the health and well-being
of children, especially the youngest, and set up a Children's Bureau
(Timpson, 2001: 170).
"c word" had been purged from the government's vocabulary,
however. As one federal official put it, "…childcare just kind
of dropped off the edge" (quoted in Timpson, 2001: 170). All
eyes were now on child development. With this focus traditionally
came a language of "risk." The norm for child development
is what most children do; only those at the margins (whether because
of their health, disability, parental characteristics and behaviour,
or whatever) need attention to achieve developmental milestones.
Not only had representations shifted from the needs of adults to
those of children, but the universe of political discourse had incorporated
a huge dose of population health analysis, displacing other concepts
of social relations. This analysis also fit well with emerging attention
to inclusion (or exclusion) in which the vast majority were assumed
able to fend for themselves with attention going only to the margins.
policy advocates struggled to keep up with these swings in the 1990s.
They contributed, along with governments, towards a re-weighting
of the discourse about poverty. It shifted from one that deployed
categories such as "women and poverty" and the "feminisation
of poverty" towards one measuring "child poverty."
In doing so, child care advocates found themselves part of a widened
bandwidth, albeit one in which women's claims were not often heard;
children's voices drowned them out.
the 1980s, the situation had been different, as we see from the
analysis provided by Wendy McKeen (2001: 20):
wave feminists were relative newcomers within the social policy
community, however, and many of their ideas w with respect to national
social welfare and
support policy were shaped over time in relation to the policy stances
and discursive innovations of the more established progressive-liberal
social policy community - i.e. national social policy and anti-poverty
organizations. With respect to this policy area, then, national
women's organizations were drawn through the 1970s and early 1980s
to the liberal concerns and orientations of these allies. A key
factor in this shift was the generation, primarily by social policy
organizations (but drawing on liberal feminism), of a discourse
on women and poverty and, later, the feminization of poverty, which
highlighted the situation of single mothers. With women placed at
the centre of the poverty problem, feminists gained new political
space for their claims…This discursive terrain created the basis
for an alliance, (although an unequal one), between institutionalized
women's/ feminist organizations such as NAC and the CACSW, and the
progressive-liberal social policy community which consisted of such
organizations as the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD),
the National Council of Welfare (NCW), and the National Anti-poverty
Organization (NAPO). The early/mid-1980s marked a high point in
this alliance…. The women's movement thus acquired a legitimate
voice in the national liberal social policy debate and, indeed,
gained status as an authority on poverty and related social policies
as "women" were castigated because of their positions
on the belonging dimension of the citizenship regime and as the
up-surge in a partisan neo-liberal right fostered neo-familialism
promoted by groups such as REAL Women, this alliance fell apart.
Social policy groups, including the trade unions, began to rework
their analysis of poverty, increasingly picking up on work done
since the 1980s by child poverty campaigners. Here the question
of name became absolutely crucial. There was an immediate up-surge
in visibility of groups self-named as involved with children and
family issues, groups which had thus far been in the shadows.
Child Poverty Action Group (based on the British model) was created
in Toronto in 1983. CPAG then fostered the formation of a child
poverty coalition in 1988 composed of seven organisations concerned
with families and children. The group not only generated fact sheets
about children and poverty (published by the Canadian Council on
Social Development - CCSD) but maintained an active lobbying strategy
directed at parliamentarians. Building on the momentum associated
with the 1989 Resolution, in 1991, the coalition transformed itself
into Campaign 2000. The group promised annual monitoring and reports
on progress towards eliminating child poverty. Campaign 2000 was
considerably larger than the previous grouping, with over 70 national,
provincial and community organisations as members.
Campaign 2000 tried to retain the language of the post-war citizenship
regime by arguing that universal family benefits were the best way
to fight poverty. It appeared before Parliament and in other forums
to call for a return to principles of horizontal equity and support
for all families. This was a difficult to stance to maintain, however,
while also claiming that "poverty" was the problem. The
complicated message was hard to communicate (Mahon and Phillips,
2002: 202 and 214, note 37). The coalition found itself drawn into
detailed assessments of how to target and to what ends. For example,
in its 1996 report card, Campaign 2000 called for a quadrupling
of child benefits; family care supplements for single parents who
looked after children full time; maintenance payments to cover child
support, paid through a special fund; as well as comprehensive [sic]
early childhood and day care programmes across the country (Globe
and Mail, 16 November 1996: A2). In 1997, the group called for
a minimum federal investment of $2.2 billion to make the national
child benefit effective (Globe and Mail, 14 January 1997:
all organisations, even those with poverty in their name, were happy
about refocusing all attention on child poverty. The National Anti-Poverty
Organization (NAPO) "believed that the focus on children would
place categories of the poor in competition with each other"
(McKeen, 2000: 24, note 18). Nor was the Canadian Labour Congress
particularly enthusiastic about the focus on low-income groups.
Indeed, it fell out for a time with its long-standing ally, the
CCSD, when the latter plumped for a guaranteed income to fight poverty;
the union central preferred to put the accent on job creation (Haddow,
it was difficult to resist this re-focussing as the federal government
began to move toward to new models for thinking about the links
between employment and social assistance. The popular model became
one that increasingly focused on "investing in children".
Moreover, advocates for children had already moved to use the language
of investment, and to link the well-being of all with the well-being
of children. In 1994, for example, Campaign 2000 pre-figured later
state preoccupations by suggesting that the overall message of its
Report on Children and Nationhood was "If we neglect
the next generation, we're jeopardizing the future of our country."
The Globe and Mail entitled this position, "Child poverty
seen as a threat to Canada's future"(28 June 1994: A8).
in child-centred investment culture
the draconian measures instituted in 1995 by the Minister of Finance,
Paul Martin, finally brought much of the post-war citizenship regime
to end, new patterns of representation quickly began to take shape.
Already by 1997 the huge deficits that had inspired years of whinging
about spending and making deficit reduction the prime political
goal seemed under control. New investments were beginning to seem
possible. The inventors of the National Child Benefit (NCB) was
one group determined to take advantage of these new opportunities.
Children were the terrain on which much experimentation occurred.
before exploring these actions, it is important to recognise another
important source of support for the notion of investing in early
childhood services. Research studies played a major role. In particular,
governments and advocates have made extensive use of the studies
produced by experts on child development and brain science (for
example, Keating and Hertzman, 1999), and especially the report
commissioned by the Government of Ontario on The Early Years
(McCain and Mustard, 1999). The scientific arguments for investments
in early childhood services, including quality non-parental child
care, have been a boon to those seeking reasons to re-ignite attention
to services and to call for a universal child care system. The argument
made by the experts is that all children, not just the "disadvantaged"
benefit from stimulation in the early years, especially infancy
and early childhood.
NCB did not fall fully formed from the sky in 1997, of course. It
had been pre-figured earlier, during the ill-fated Social Security
Review (SSR) undertaken by Minister Lloyd Axworthy in the first
year of the Liberal government after the 1993 election. After consultation
(Teghtsoonian, 1997: 115), the themes of providing supports for
parents to transform them into "productive workers," and
the advantages of quality child care for counteracting the risks
associated with growing up poor and in disadvantage were in the
documents prepared for the SSR (Mahon and Phillips, 2002: 203).
The review fell victim, however, to deficit cutting and the 1995
ideas were resurrected in 1997, to form the backbone of the National
Child Benefit. It is described by its supporters as the best way
to remove "children from welfare." It has become the flagship
programme for new Canadian ways of providing welfare, thereby providing
significant signs changes in some of the principles of the citizenship
regime (Jenson, 2000).
describe the NCB as having two goals: to reduce child poverty and
to "promote attachment to the workforce by ensuring that families
will always be better off as a result of working". When it
was instituted, many poverty advocates lined up in opposition, pointing
out that as it was designed it did nothing to help poor children
whose parents lived on social assistance; the vast majority of provinces
were clawing back the financial benefit from those families, so
they would see no increase in income. The beneficiaries were families
whose income came from sources other than social assistance.
the NCB could be presented only in poverty-fighting terms or as
an employability measure, it was more than that. Indeed, it was
an integral element of to the discourse sweeping through social
policy circles at the time, one that has given rise to the "investing
in children" paradigm (Beauvais and Jenson, 2001). This notion
was key to a larger one, that of the "social investment state"
(Saint-Martin, 2000; Dobrowolsky, forthcoming).
was especially the NCB (and the National Children's Agenda process
in which it is now embedded) that allowed child care advocates to
gain some greater purchase in the debate, although with several
NCB, instituted in 1998, consists of two parts. One is a direct
benefit paid by federal government that goes to over 80% of Canadian
families, but in an income-tested way. This is the Canada Child
Tax Benefit (CCTB). The maximum benefit is targeted to low-income
families (who receive a supplement too) and then begins to be reduced
for families earning more than $30,000. Initially the NCB did not
involve any additional spending, being a recomposed programme using
existing funds. Since 1998, however, it has received significant
injections of funds, with a commitment that by 2004 the benefit
rate will be high enough to remove all children from provincial
welfare rolls. However, to cover the costs of raising a child (that
is to provide true horizontal equity) the rate would have to almost
is a significant commitment to low-income families with children
and moves towards dismantling the "welfare wall." It is
a fundamental part of the architecture of the new citizenship regime,
making work the norm for everyone and facilitating the transition
to the labour force. The CCTB does not penalise earnings as much
as the post-war welfare systems did. However, it is an expensive
programme and one that allows the federal government to say that
it has fulfilled its promises to Canadian families. Any increase
in child care, according to the federal government, will have to
come from new commitments by the provinces (White 2002).
off-loading of responsibility to the provinces in the name of "co-operative
federalism" is much more than political positioning. It is
built into the very institutions of intergovernmental relations.
If the post-war citizenship regime was one in which commitment to
certain pan-Canadian norms, instituted under the leadership (sometime
quite unilateral) of the federal government, the NCB now permits
provinces to decide how they will "reinvest" the dollars
freed up by Ottawa taking responsibility for the children's portion
of income security.
same institutional arrangements have been used to disperse the funds
the federal government agreed to provide in September 2000, for
the Early Childhood Development Initiatives. This is an injection
of $2.2 billion (over five years) to be used in several areas -
including potentially child care - of early childhood and for maternal
health. The ECD initiative was developed after discussion among
governments, and was based on common understandings of how early
childhood fit as "an investment in the future of Canada."
It also left, however, complete latitude to each government to choose
how to spend its money.
new intergovernmental governance structure has major consequences
for child care and advocates. First, they now face even more than
before a multitude of decision sites. This is a serious challenge
for coalitions which have not yet fully adapted to the more decentralised
structure of the new citizenship regime and remain concentrated
in Ottawa and Toronto. Second, the 12 sun-national governments have
complete liberty about how to spend their funds. In the first year
Ontario's, for example, decided to devote its portion by far ($30
million in a budget of $114 million) to the creation of Early Years
Centres, which are resource centres where parents can obtain information
and service referrals. Ontario has also opted to use ECD money for
provincial programs in health ($20 million to autism programs, for
example), and then to distribute funds across a wide range of other
provincial programs, including administration, which was allocated
$2.5 million for developing outcome measurements. Conspicuous in
its absence on this long list of provincial programs is child care.
list indicates another challenge that child care advocacy now face.
As Canadian politics tilted significantly to right with the rising
influence of the Reform Party and its successor the Canadian Alliance,
a neo-familialist discourse has taken hold. It is promoted by those
who combine enthusiasm for traditional family forms with suspicion
of government spending and certainly for spending on child care.
They seek tax relief so families can make their own choices. As
a result, there has been an increasing tendency to substitute family
resource centres (such as the Early Years Centres) and other devices
for child care. They appear to represent a commitment to "families,"
without raising the spectre of the "c word." Advocates
call this stance ABC - "anything but childcare" (Coffey
and McCain, 2002: 20).
slipperiness of the "investing in children" language is
a problem for child care advocates sceptical of the terms of the
new citizenship regime and particularly its emphasis on choice.
As they talk of children, they come face to face with those who
promote parental care and parental choices as the best way of raising
children, or at least as something that parents should be able to
choose. This conflict has been particularly difficult for child
care advocates in the two largest provinces.
Ontario, one of the signatories of the foundational document about
brain development in collaboration with an Executive Vice-President
of the RBC Financial Group (one of the big five banks) produced
a report for the City of Toronto that is deeply critical of the
province's failure to invest in child care services and scornful
of the "diversion" of funds into Early Years Centres.
The province high-jacked the name of the famous report, but its
centres do not provide the services called for; they are little
but "information kiosks" (Coffey and McCain, 2002: 20-21).
Quebec the assault on the one Canadian programme that does provide
universal child care with an educational focus comes from the right
as well. Critics of the lack of "choice" and failure to
support parenting have emerged from research institutes and neo-liberal
parties. For the moment, because advocates of universal quality
care are in government, they can protect the policy. Nonetheless,
the Minister has buckled under pressure from the commercial sector
and parents demanding more options, and in May 2002 lifted the moratorium
on licenses for for-profit centres. If, moreover, the radical right-wing
Action démocratique québécois (ironically
a party of young politicians with young children!) were to win the
next election, that child care system would be at risk.
evidence of the slipperiness of the child care arguments in the
new regime comes from the way child care and employability are linked.
Those promoting the principle of making work pay and that "everyone"
should work do understand that parents need help with child care.
Because so many of those targeted to make the "transition"
into the labour force are women heading lone-parent families, child
care subsidies have been part of the policy package (Beauvais and
Jenson, 2001: 50-57, Table 8). However, those designing programmes
do not always make the distinction between child care and "quality
child care." Therefore, the rules allow recipients to use the
subsidies for informal care, to pay relatives, to use commercial
service providers, and so on.
care advocates find themselves complaining on the margins, and having
to explain why they are not happy that the programme recognises
(at last! the designers say) that working parents need child care.
Advocates had made little progress in convincing these designers
that a long-term solution as well as meeting the needs of children
today requires investing in high-quality services. Too often the
temptation of providing income to two people (the mother going into
a job and new neighbour who will now become a child-minder) is just
too strong. Moreover, the cost of good care is seen as too expensive.
can we make of all these changes in the citizenship regime, of the
move away from a space for women's voices towards an emphasis on
the child, and especially the poor child? The conclusion does demand
a certain level of irony. After all, while many post-1945 citizenship
regimes provided rights and distributed responsibilities on the
basis of a male breadwinner model and while they relegated women
to the home, by making the ideal-typical citizen the "citizen-worker",
they did at least leave space for women to claim equal status and
standing. Adults jostled for equal treatment, support and recognition
in this citizenship regime. Now, however, post-conservative elites
and "Third Way politics", by promoting work for everyone,
have actually - or thereby? - rendered the citizen-worker an all-compassing
figure. There are few things to debate and discuss when all adults
appear to share a similar status. Instead, where these is
discussion and debate about appropriate state action, about new
rights, about where "to invest" and about how to modernise
social models, the child has also come to occupy central stage.
In many ways the child has, symbolically, become the "model
citizen". One result is that equality claims, particularly
for women but also for democratic citizenship have become more difficult
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