Conservatives and Quebec are content with Liberals’ ambitious child care plan

OTTAWA – The Liberal government’s iconic budget ambition to build a Canada-wide, $ 10-a-day child care system hinges on separate agreements being signed with each province and being honored by future government leaders.

There are already signs that are not taken for granted.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his party wanted a plan that gives “choice” and flexibility to parents who want friends or relatives to take care of their children. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives shut down the Liberals’ latest $ 5 billion attempt to create a national early learning and child care system and instead sent child care checks for $ 100 directly to families.

O’Toole said the Liberal Party promised a national child care plan “nine times. Even cats only have nine lives. He said the Conservatives would come up with a plan for Canadian families “in the future”.

And Quebec Premier François Legault said he would take Quebec’s share of the national program “for the child care services we already have in Quebec” and spend that money on health care after the Liberal budget is cut. rejected the unanimous call of the premiers for a massive increase in the federal government. health transfer.

Legault acknowledged that Quebec’s child care system “still needs to be completed,” but estimated that Quebec’s share of the federal child care proposal was $ 30 billion – at $ 680 million in the first year, rising to $ 1.8 billion in 2025-2026 – would help Quebec solve “A small part of our funding problem” in the health sector.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau said that Quebec, like all provinces, would receive its “fair share” of the money once an agreement is reached, but that just like under a deal. previous funding, “it needs to be invested in families and children. “

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet told the House of Commons that Ottawa cannot dictate the terms of child care in Quebec.

“What we want is an unconditional transfer,” he said. “Quebec should do what it wants with its own money.

During Tuesday’s budget debate, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made it clear he did not believe the Liberals would follow through on the child care plan, saying the Liberals simply promised to get elected. . Yet the NDP praised itself for pushing the government to promise it.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland insisted that after years of broken promises Canadians are ready to ‘make it happen’ and that as a working mother she is committed to creating a pan-Canadian system early learning and care.

But its budget avoided talking about “national standards” for child care, or even referring to a “national” child care system.

Instead, the budget promised to spend up to $ 30 billion over five years to create a “pan-Canadian” system. Freeland said on Tuesday that separate agreements would be made with willing provinces and territories that “share our ambitions in this area” and talks have already started.

The budget specifically provides for a 50% reduction. 100 of the average regulated early learning and child care fees in all provinces outside of Quebec, which must be offered before or by the end of 2022.

“Our goal is that within five years, families across Canada should have access to high quality child care for an average of $ 10 a day,” Freeland said after tabling the budget.

But child care advocates were not told what cost sharing would look like: whether provinces should increase their current spending on services to match the federal contribution, whether the money would subsidize child care providers. for-profit or limited to the non-profit child care sector.

Freeland told CBC Radio that the federal Liberals have a “strong bias” in favor of supporting the not-for-profit sector in child care and long-term care.



Martha Friendly, head of the Child Care Resources and Research Unit at the University of Toronto, said that outside of Quebec, child care spaces are mainly funded by parent fees which are paid. dried up during the pandemic.

She said the pandemic has shown that any government plan must “fund services” and not just provide direct payments to parents because the previous Conservative government’s plan clearly did not work.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says the pandemic has resulted in the permanent closure of about 58 child care centers. “Registrations have dropped and the workforce is depleted, stressed and still not prioritized for vaccines amid increasing outbreaks,” the union said in a statement that welcomed Freeland’s budget proposal. .

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