How NL Budget 2014 could boost the birthrate
Watching Finance Minister Johnson pose with her pre-school daughter for pre-Budget pics, I was struck by an obvious revelation: she’s an Invested Mama too! Contributing to her community, her province and society at large. Living her best life. Letting her light shine. Setting an example for her child and serving as a role model for women everywhere.
Of course this budget would have an Invested Mama touch … duh!
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this year’s provincial budget was downright maternal.
Let me explain.
One of the main reasons couples cite for waiting to start a family is lack of financial readiness. Let’s face it. Nothing kills the romance like $30,000 of student debt. However, the government predicts that the proposed change to the student loan program – in particular the phasing in of non-repayable grants – will save new grads (and potentially future parents) $5,000-$12,000. I don’t know about you, but just writing that got me in the mood.
The other part of this year’s budget that could boost the birthrate: full day Kindergarten. Can I hear an “Amen” to that? I cannot imagine how much of a financial blessing one less year of full-time daycare would be to a family.
Actually, I can imagine it. I’ve lived it.
About five years after graduating from MUN – and with the end of our student loan debt in sight – hubby and I got the baby itch. We got it bad. We’d finished the basement in our renovated bungalow, added a puppy to the mix and I started learning how to make curtains. Classic signs you’re ready to have kids.
One year later, we were pregnant. (For the record, I was the pregnant one, but that’s what “we” say these days!)
So happily baby arrived. At first, we were in a haze of amazement and gratitude over this wonderful being we had created. Then reality struck.
Whoa … move over student debt … there’s a new boss in town and this one means business.
Our childcare costs trumped our mortgage payments that first year. I remember e-filing our tax return and getting a notice from CRA asking for proof that we had spent that much. Like we could make this stuff up …
When baby No. 2 came along, we happily yanked our oldest out of daycare to spare the budget for that year of poverty (also known as maternity leave). There were no Danny Bucks back then, but Harper had introduced his $100 Universal Child Care Benefit. I’m still trying to locate the universe where quality childcare costs $100 per month, but that’s a topic for another day.
In the meantime, we braced ourselves. Braced ourselves for the year of the “overlap.” The year when we were paying fulltime daycare costs for our four-year-old in addition to the even higher costs to have his one-year-old sister cared for in a home setting. Our childcare receipt for that tax year exceeded $11,000. CRA left us alone.
I think they felt sorry for us.
There were rumblings of full day Kindergarten back then, as well. But alas, it was not meant to be. Therefore, we entered overlap year number two. Although our son was in Kindergarten for half of the day, we were still required to pay the full time rate to “hold his daycare spot” (don’t even get me started on that one).
By the absolute skin of our teeth, we got him to Grade 1 (and out of full time daycare), but it would be another three full years before there was any real easing up on our childcare budget. Deficits? Talk to me about it.
So what does all this have to do with Charlene’s Budget?
Well, if our student loans had been less, we likely would have had children earlier. And if our childcare timelines had been shorter, we may have even had more of the little darlings. This generation of couples should be celebrating the options this budget gives their family plans, over and above the thousands in savings it could mean for their financial ones. This budget did not simply throw a few symbolic bucks at the expenses facing families. Rather, they began to address one of the fundamental issues affecting the long term sustainability of our population.
Whatever your political stripe, you have to admit that Ms. Johnson is one smart cookie. And by the time she’s ready to run for leader, there may be more people in this province to vote for her.