Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness speaking on the economic benefits of affordable child care in the Legislature on Feb. 26, 2018.

NDP says Chilliwack-Kent MLA thinks child care isn’t needed, parents should stay home

Laurie Throness also said replacing people with machines a better investment than child care

The provincial NDP has come out hard criticizing comments made by Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness in two recent speeches in the legislature in his role as official critic on children and family development.

But Throness defends his words saying also that they need to be taken into the context of his entire speech on Feb. 26, as well as his portions of his speech on the budget on Feb. 22 that focused on child care.

• READ MORE: NDP’s first budget to set spending record for housing, child care

In a press release with the headline: “What the B.C. Liberals really think about child care – in their own words,” the NDP point to a number of statements they say illustrate the party is only there for the wealthy.

Specifically, the release criticizes Throness on the subject of the NDP’s plan for universal child care including bringing in 24,000 new licensed spaces in the next three years. On that, Throness said the child care plan only helps low-income people into the workforce.

“There could be some economic gain if those entering the workforce were high-income earners, but by definition, those who benefit from this subsidy are low-income earners,” Throness said.

Asked about this comment Wednesday, he said the point is that the policy will not have a large economic effect.

“The incremental benefit may be small and may not pay for the child care,” he said. “Please take all of my remarks into context.”

Throness also said the NDP government is ignoring the cries of infants leaving their parents who have to go to work, and also the sadness of that parent who would rather stay home with their new baby.

“I can tell you how many child care spaces we have right now in B.C.,” Throness said speaking against universal child care in Victoria. “We have one full-time, 24-hour-a-day space for every child in B.C. By law, child care is now, and always has been, universal and 24-7.”

Is that a suggestion that one parent should always stay home?

“I’m saying that parents ought to get into the driver’s seat,” he told The Progress. “The NDP is saying ‘we want everybody in public daycare.’”

Throness said the NDP model is like Sweden where 92 per cent of children are in public daycare at a cost of $20,000 per child. Instead, he points to Finland where the government provides a homecare allowance, something 40 per cent of parents use.

The NDP release pointed to a statement that they say means Throness thinks investing in machines is more important than child care.

“If the government really wants to grow the economy … it will provide incentives to … replace human workers with software and machines.”

Asked to explain, Throness said child care is more of a lifestyle choice than an economic benefit, and that technology and not labour is what makes life in First World countries better than in the Third World.

“Automation and technology and machines have provided the enormous outpouring of wealth that we enjoy in western society,” he said in an interview. “I took a tour of a business in Chilliwack. One guy’s job was to put a cardboard spool over a spindle that someone would wrap material around. That was his job. That is a job that should be undertaken by a machine.”

He added that that worker could be more productive and creative doing something else.

On that same subject, Throness continued in his speech saying that software and machines “don’t get tired or ill or make mistakes … don’t ask for wages and … happily work 24 hours a day.”

Asked if his implication was that, essentially, women should stay home and take care of their children, Throness insisted it was not, but rather choice is what is missing from the NDP plan.

“Some women would rather stay home with their baby and they should have that choice.”

In the NDP press release, Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen said the BC Liberals are “only there for themselves and the very wealthiest.”

“We have a plan to make child care better for hard-working people across B.C.” Chen said. “When the BC Liberals say they would rather replace workers with robots and that child care is not needed, it becomes completely clear why they’re no longer in government.

• READ MORE: Questions raised over B.C. NDP’s childcare budget plan


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paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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