Education and Childcare Are the Cornerstone of an Economic Re-opening

Mark Chapeskie

July 19, 2020

By Mark Chapeskie

As a direct consequence of the economic shutdown due to COVID-19, parents have been asked to balance their children and their careers since the beginning of March. For those working from home, it has been only marginally possible, but it has meant excessively long hours, at-times inadequate childcare, and significant reductions in productivity. Then there are the parents required to be physically present onsite (grocery store attendants, utility workers, healthcare professionals, delivery drivers, education workers, etc.). Without care for their children, these parents simply cannot return to work.

If the various layers of government in Canada intend to re-open the economy, care for children needs to be a cornerstone of that plan. Any plan that includes distance learning will fail, as any parent managing their children’s education can tell you. As we head into the summer, we need to take some time to reflect: what is truly in the best interest of all Canadians?

We need a recovery plan that addresses both the direct consequences of the pandemic, as well as the ongoing shutdown. What about the impact on children, families, and other Canadians whose livelihoods have essentially evaporated overnight? Furthermore, we must acknowledge that Canada is geographically massive and the impacts of COVID-19 have been very different from one region to the next. Applying a one-size-fits all approach would be inappropriate and irresponsible.

When making a decision about return to school in September, the government must consider the following:

1. the impact if parents are asked to work and care for their children, which compromises both their ability to parent and to be productive

2. the mental health of students

3. the mental health of parents

4. students who may be going hungry or facing abuse in the home

5. children with special needs who rely on increased school supports to reach their full potential

6. regional impact of COVID-19 in communities

7. risk of infection to educators and students based on real data and not political rhetoric

We would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to suggest that many provincial governments are failing to capitalize on a crucial option missing from most re-opening plans: a complete restructuring of the education system. It is time that we acknowledge that our education system is still rooted in the Industrial Revolution, where students were trained to produce widgets and were off in the summers to help with the farm planting and harvest. In 2020, our education system should reflect a modern world with emphasis on the need for certain core skills, but also the ability for customized learning. Furthermore, if smaller class sizes were a priority, return to school in the fall would be a non-issue. This is an opportunity to do the right thing from both an education and public health perspective.

An improved education system would prioritize front-line workers (e.g. teachers, educational assistants, and paramedical support staff to assist children with special needs) over administration. Smaller class sizes would not only reduce the risk of transmission of any infection (as COVID-19 will not be the last), but would also allow educational front-line workers to better customize teaching and help students reach their full potential. And while this may seem outrageous, during COVID-19 we have a lot of empty public space that could be used for additional classrooms while we prepare staff in time for an autumn school start with more teachers, EAs and others to reduce the risk of infection. For days that children aren’t in school or childcare, the options available to parents outside of the controlled school and daycare environments will be ad hoc and significantly increase the risk of infection across the education and childcare community.

It also makes sense to note that in 2019, 63.5% of Canada’s labour force was composed of working parents with children. Of those, 71.3% had children under the age of 6 (that’s 45.3% of the Canadian workforce with children under the age of six).* If schools and daycares do not re-open or only partially re-open in the fall, we’re looking at a significant impact on the availability of labour for the electricity sector. Imagine a scenario where we face several significant adverse weather events that impact a major metropolitan area (or areas). Floods, tornadoes and wildfires are sadly becoming more normal in different regions across the country with good examples from recent history. Imagine if 45% of the workforce was unable to respond to the call to repair power lines or provide regular and reliable maintenance to the grid because they have to make the choice of care for their child or power for their community? We cannot put utility workers in this position.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exactly the opportunity we need for some fundamental and positive structural change to respond to modern workforce realities. And if we don’t see children return to school full-time in the fall (and daycare and afterschool programs), there is absolutely no way the economy will recover as hoped. Furthermore, there are very big risks associated with the next major weather event having a much more significant impact on the grid. At best, the economy will continue to limp along, stagnating or weakening. At worst, we could face a double-whammy: an ongoing pandemic and a blackout for an indeterminate period of time.

Mark Chapeskie is Director of Programs at Electricity Human Resources Canada, and dad to two.

* Statistics Canada, retrieved July 8, 2020;

Related Articles

Latest Articles

  • Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    June 14, 2024 Month over month, investment in building construction increased 4.5% to $20.4 billion in March. The residential sector was up 5.4% to $14.3 billion, while investment in the non-residential sector increased 2.3% to $6.1 billion. On a constant dollar basis (2017=100), investment in building construction increased 4.1% to $12.5 billion in March. Investment in single-family homes continues to rise Investment in… Read More…

  • Record High Levels in British Columbia’s Multi-Unit Residential Construction Intentions for April

    Record High Levels in British Columbia’s Multi-Unit Residential Construction Intentions for April

    June 14, 2024 Month over month, the total value of building permits in Canada significantly increased 20.5% to $12.8 billion in April. Construction intentions in the residential sector increased 21.0% to $8.0 billion and the non-residential sector rose 19.6% to $4.8 billion, with growth observed in all components. British Columbia posted a record high monthly total value of building permits ($3.1 billion),… Read More…

  • ECAO’s Ontario’s Energy Future Sector Analysis Report

    ECAO’s Ontario’s Energy Future Sector Analysis Report

    June 14, 2024 Driven by economy-wide decarbonization efforts in response to the global climate crisis, Ontario’s electricity sector is rapidly evolving to enable the shift from fossil-based energy sources to clean energy sources. At the same time, with electrification of industry, transportation and more, it is abundantly clear that the demand for electricity supply is… Read More…

  • Planned Shift from Gas to Electric Heat Required to Avoid High Costs and Emissions: Report

    Planned Shift from Gas to Electric Heat Required to Avoid High Costs and Emissions: Report

    June 14, 2024 New research published today by the Canadian Climate Institute finds that a system-wide shift from gas to electric heat is the lowest-cost path through the clean energy transition. The report, Heat Exchange: How today’s policy choices will drive or delay Canada’s transition to clean, reliable heat, concludes that provincial government action will be  necessary to protect reliability and… Read More…

Changing Scene

  • Danielle Mayer – 2024 ECAM Award Recipient

    Danielle Mayer – 2024 ECAM Award Recipient

    June 14, 2024 Danielle Mayer’s journey to receiving the 2024 ECAM Award is one of dedication and determination. Danielle’s interest in the electrical trade sparked when she realized its potential as a hands-on career path, prompted by the suggestion from her friends that they needed an electrician among them. Beginning her exploration of the electrical… Read More…

  • CAF-FCA Unveils Trades Talent – An Innovative Speaker Connection Service at 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference

    CAF-FCA Unveils Trades Talent – An Innovative Speaker Connection Service at 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference

    June 14, 2024 The 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference saw an exciting announcement from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF-FCA) with the launch of Trades Talent, an innovative online service designed to connect event planners with expert speakers in the skilled trades sector. This ground-breaking platform promises to be a game-changer for those seeking knowledgeable and engaging… Read More…

  • Atkore Announces Environmental Product Declarations for Steel and PVC Conduit Products

    Atkore Announces Environmental Product Declarations for Steel and PVC Conduit Products

    Atkore Inc. announced it has published Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for its Galvanized Steel, Stainless Steel, and PVC Conduit & Fittings portfolios. Verified by an independent third party, each EPD contains a product’s life cycle assessment that measures its environmental impact, such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, waste generation, and other factors…. Read More…

  • ECAO 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award

    ECAO 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award

    June 14, 2024 Congratulations to Mr. Allan Kellett, Co-Owner of K-Line Group of Companies, on being named the recipient of the ECAO’s 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award! The award was presented earlier this month as part of ECAO’s Annual General Meeting. View the LinkedIn post HERE Read More…