Should the Manitoba Government Only Support Childcare?

Late last August, Susan Prentice and Jesse Hajer claimed that childcare is “an austerity victim.” In short, they say that childcare had been inadequately funded by the PC government. With […]
Published on January 5, 2024

Late last August, Susan Prentice and Jesse Hajer claimed that childcare is “an austerity victim.” In short, they say that childcare had been inadequately funded by the PC government. With advice to the in-coming NDP government, they argue that spending more money on childcare is an investment in their future and the economic development of the province.

Of course, this is true.

But a just policy that applies to children should, logic tells us, also apply to other needy people, such as elderly people especially those living in care homes.

Daycare children are cute and innocent. They have a bright future as they walk down the street holding a rope tied to their care givers like a family of multicoloured Canadian geese.

Care home residents, on the other hand, do not look cute sitting in wheelchairs talking to themselves with a vacant look in their eyes.

The future of care home residents is limited, not open like daycare children. But their minds are filled with memories in which they built this province and country, fought in the wars, supported voluntary organizations, churches, and synagogues, worked long hours at difficult jobs, paid taxes, and created families caring for their children and neighbours.

We need to remember what they did — it is our history.

So, looking after seniors would be fair recognition for what they invested in the social programs that we enjoy today.

There are many things that provincial governments need to address for care home residents. We can begin with food. These people should be able to look forward to at least one delicious meal a day.

Unfortunately, this is not always true. For some residents, it is factory food trucked in and heated on-site. Often the food is not thoroughly cooked. Sometimes potatoes are raw, and pizza has raw crusts so that residents scrape the topping off, eat what they can, leaving the doughy parts on their plates.

If prisoners were given food like this, they would surely revolt.

Care homes residents cannot even complain, let alone revolt. All they can do is eat what is palatable. With a few exceptions, these people are harmless.

In comparison, most prisoners harmed other people — that is why they are in prison. And yet, they get better food and receive room and board paid for by taxpayers at about $600 per day. Care home residents, on the other hand, pay from their own pockets between $35 and $95 per day for room and board.

The priorities are misplaced when prisoners get free care and children receive $10 per day daycare, while seniors pay three to nine times more than daycare children.

So far, the Manitoba government cares more for children in daycare and prisoners in jail than for the elderly in care homes. It may seem strange, but many MLAs have parents or grandparents in care homes.

But what should be done?

Is it a good policy to expand the caring state to manage every aspect of our lives from daycare to senior care? Is being fair and just, no matter the cost, along with the disempowerment of citizens and voluntary associations, the government’s aim?

Instead, we should empower citizens to re-empower churches, synagogues, and other service organizations — the mediating institutions — to care for needy citizens, particularly children and seniors.

This would mean leaving more money in citizens’ pockets. As much as possible, the decision and resources need to reside with citizens to care for themselves and their loved ones through empowering voluntary service organizations.

Of course, politicians must be concerned about needy people, but they should do so without overburdening taxpayers, and most importantly, without disempowering the mediating institutions.

Provincial governments will be judged, at least in part, by how well they treat seniors who are living in care homes, balanced against their other priorities and the taxes they collect.

But more than political slogans, like the “$10-a-day childcare,” are needed to achieve this noble goal. Now that childcare is improving, isn’t it time to improve senior care starting with the food?


Rodney A. Clifton is a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His most recent book with Mark DeWolf is From Truth Comes Reconciliation: An Assessment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. A second expanded edition will be published early in 2024.


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