"Collective Voices around Partnering and Parenting"
1-2 November 2002

Shifting Patterns of Representation:
The politics of "children", "families", "women"

Alexandra Dobrowlosky
(St Mary's University)

Jane Jenson
(University of Montreal)

Please do not quote without permission

The 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 see http://www.fas.umontreal.ca/POL/cohesionsociale

As 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.

In 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.

The 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.

At 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.

Citizenship regimes and representation

By 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.

There 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:

  • Citizenship 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.
  • Through 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.
  • A 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.
  • A 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 national minorities.

In 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.

We 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.

Child care as a "women's issue"

In 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.

"Universal" 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, 2001: 100).

In 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).

Beginning 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'."

Soon, 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.

Partly 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.

At 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):

Of 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….

The 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).

In 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".

Nevertheless, 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.

This 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).

It 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.

Through 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).

Nevertheless, 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.

Then, 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.

Things 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):

Child 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 long.

Therefore, 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.

Despite 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.

Child 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".

Women are "out"; children are "in"

The 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.

The 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.

Sidelining the women's movement

Women's 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.

This 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).

Throughout 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.

For 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, 1997).

Child 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.

The 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.

Antagonism 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):

It's 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.

This 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).

Having 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.

For 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: 26).

Increasing the bandwidth

It 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):

In 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 position.

Between 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.

The 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.

Benefits 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 in children.

A long 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).

The "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.

Social 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.

In the 1980s, the situation had been different, as we see from the analysis provided by Wendy McKeen (2001: 20):

Second wave feminists were relative newcomers within the social policy community, however, and many of their ideas w with respect to national social welfare and

income 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 and programs….

However, 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.

Canada's 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.

Initially 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: A9).

Not 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, 1994).

Nonetheless, 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).

Advocacy in child-centred investment culture

After 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.

But 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.

The 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 Martin budget.

The 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).

Governments 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.

While 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).

It 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 significant disadvantages.

The 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 double again.

This 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).

This 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.

The 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.

This 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.

This 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).

The 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.

In 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).

In 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.

Additional 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.

Child 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.


What 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 to make.



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