As I write this article I am in Denmark visiting family. I do this every year or every other year. And when I’m here I often think about why the Nordic people (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) are so happy.
Usually the five countries are in the top 10 happiest people in the world. Why is that? One of the reasons is because they have a very good social network that is paid by higher taxes. So even though the citizens pay high taxes, they do not grumble about it because of all the services they receive. And the services are universal: everyone gets the same (normally high quality) service.
In Canada we have many universal social services: most of our health care is the same for all: hospitals and doctors. And most of our education is universal: grades K to 12 for example.
In Canada, the prescriptions and personal care homes fees vary from province to province, but for the most part are similar to Manitoba: it is based on one’s ability to pay. For example prescriptions in Manitoba are based on a deductible that each of us have to pay first and then Manitoba Health pays for the rest above that deductible amount. And personal care home fees are also based on your income. The more income you have, the more you need to pay before the government (the rest of the taxpayers) will pay.
So why don’t we do the same for other types of services. I believe we would be a happier country and have better outcomes for families if there was universal child care. Families would be less stressed out trying to find quality child care. Children would have better care. Why is only once our children are five or six that we think it’s important that they receive universal care in our schools?
Universal child care in the Nordic countries (I can see) provide better outcomes: more women in the workforce; child care providers receive better pay (paid by the government, the taxpayers); better quality of child care; children are better prepared for school. And all children regardless of family income receive the same quality care.
If is not free for all families as school is, but it is based on the families ability to pay. So families with lower income may pay nothing or very little and families with higher income pay more. And the amount you pay is paid to the government, not to the child care provider. The child care providers are paid by the government, not by the parents.
In Denmark, there are many “home day cares” including one operated by one of my cousins. She has four children from 7am to about 5pm each work day. The children learn how to live in a home and how to respect her items in the home. They learn how to make food in the kitchen and how to sit and behave properly in her home. There are several of these in the neighbourhood and sometimes they get together for “outings”. My cousin is paid fairly well (by the government) and has pension benefits and several weeks of vacation (children are looked after by other casual child care providers).
So the child care providers in Denmark are well trained, well-regulated and well paid. This makes for happier child care providers who continue in the career for many years (less turnover) and make for happier children and happier parents.
I think it’s time for Canada to consider this approach to the most important years of our children: Providing the same quality of care as we do in our schools.
Denmark is essentially one giant middle class. The creation of this economically and gender-equal society has driven much of Denmark’s social and economic development over the last one hundred or so years. To quote NFS Gruntvig: “And we will have made great strides in equality, when few have too much and fewer have too little”. Let’s make Canada great by providing better services to all Canadians regardless of their ability to pay.
I didn’t always think this way, but as I see it in practice in Denmark, I see the benefits. Even if our taxes must go up some to pay for this, I think in the long run, we will all be better off.
Anni Markmann is a Personal Income Tax Professional and Certified Financial Planner; living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact Ste Anne Tax Service at 204.422.6631 or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne (near Clearview Co-op) or firstname.lastname@example.org