Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joined virtually by Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland as they talk online to a group of front-line pharmacists from across the country to discuss the ongoing vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID‑19, from the Prime Ministers office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joined virtually by Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland as they talk online to a group of front-line pharmacists from across the country to discuss the ongoing vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID‑19, from the Prime Ministers office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Freeland says Liberals open to provincial child care demands, draws line around fees

Provinces must agree to targets on affordability, quality of care and training of early childhood educators

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland sent a warning to provinces about her budget’s pledge on child care, saying she would negotiate in good faith but not bend on reducing parental fees, as several provinces questioned the tight strings on the promised new spending.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed up that warning Tuesday with one of his own: provinces must agree to required targets on affordability, quality of care and training of early childhood educators if they want a share of federal child care funding committed in Monday’s federal budget.

Provinces that don’t want to agree to those conditions, won’t get any federal funding, he said.

The budget outlined $27.2 billion over five years, starting this fiscal year, in new spending the Liberals want to send to provinces to subsidize daycares.

The specific strings attached on the spending pledge would dictate what forms of child care could be eligible for federal funding, and how much parental fees must drop over the next five years.

On Tuesday, Freeland said she had spoken with some provinces and territories, but didn’t go into more detail. She said she wanted to give them time to read the budget.

She said the government wants to understand what each province and territory needs, but underlined the budget’s aim to have child-care fees come down in the coming years.

“Although Canada is very, very diverse in the provision of early learning and child care … our goals are now national,” Freeland said at a news conference in Ottawa.

“Every Canadian parent five years from now, everywhere in the country, should have access to affordable, high-quality early learning and child care for an average of $10 a day.”

Later Tuesday during an interview with Edmonton-based online talk show host Ryan Jespersen, Trudeau was asked what would stop a province from simply passing along the federal funding to parents to spend as they see fit.

“That is exactly the question that we have spent the last many, many months wrestling with,” he said.

“We have very, very clear targets around affordability, around quality, around training of early childhood educators that are going to be requirements to the bilateral agreements that will be signed by the provinces who want to move forward on this.”

Trudeau added: “Those who aren’t interested, well, there’s nothing we can do to force them to do it but they won’t be getting the resources that will come through a bilateral deal to move forward on child care.”

Trudeau said earlier Tuesday that Quebec will receive funding in recognition of the existing provincial system upon which the federal program is based.

The warnings marked the opening lines in negotiations the Liberals must have with provinces to create a national system if Parliament approves the minority government’s first budget in two years.

The Liberals hope to build on previous child-care funding deals first signed four years ago that broadly outlined how spending tied to the Trudeau government’s first foray into daycare needed to be used.

A key goal coming out of the initial three years of the $7.5-billion, 11-year spend was to create or maintain 40,000 spaces, but Freeland’s first budget doesn’t say how many spaces the new pledge would create, nor estimate how many spaces might move from home-based or private care to non-profit settings.

Expanding spaces needs to go hand-in-hand with fee reductions, otherwise long wait-lists at daycares would become even longer, said David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“There are not specific targets on the number of child-care spaces created. Hopefully, there will be soon,” he said.

“That’s a big part of a national child-care plan, particularly if your goal is to reduce fees.”

How the money can help create more spaces or assist with wages for child-care workers, as the budget alluded to, were key issues for Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin, who was open to the new funding.

Similarly, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he wanted details, but voiced skepticism about Freeland’s vow of collegiality after the Liberals ignored provincial calls for more health-care spending.

The budget’s child-care spending pledge would see the government increase funding over time before matching provincial spending on child care.

Provinces aren’t being asked to match costs over the ramp-up, if they sign on to five-year funding agreements starting this fall, said economist Armine Yalnizyan.

“I’m very hopeful that for the first time with political will, as well as money, and ambition at the table, we are going to get to where we need to go,” said Yalnizyan, who sits on Freeland’s task force on women in the economy.

“The only hiccup is going to be intransigent provinces.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said any long-term support needed to be “flexible to respond to the unique needs of every parent, not a one-size-fits-all approach.” In Alberta, Finance Minister Travis Toews said any funding deal needs to uphold the “fundamental principle of parental choice.”

Allowing the money to go anywhere but to high-quality group care would water down the economic benefits, said economist Jim Stanford.

The budget estimated the spending could help 240,000 Canadians, largely women, join the workforce, but Stanford’s own work suggests a larger bump in employment.

“Even conservative provincial governments are going to rake in billions of dollars of new revenue because of this program,” said Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute. “They will be putting ideology before reality if they try to stop this.”

— With files from Kevin Bissett, Keith Doucette, Shawn Jeffords, Chris Purdy, and Steve Lambert.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Childcarefederal budget

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spallumcheen councillors (from left) Todd York, Gerry Popoff, Christine LeMaire, John Bakker, Joe Van Tienhoven and Andrew Casson join Mayor Christine Fraser (fourth from left) in helping to proclaim the township open for business with new signage off Highway 97A. (Township of Spallumcheen photo)
Being open for business paying dividends for Spallumcheen

Township wins provincial award, new business and building starts increase

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Oliver Fire Department had to put out a fire on their own training ground, and it wasn’t one they set. (Facebook)
Vehicles torched at Oliver Fire Department training grounds

This suspected arson comes after the cars were vandalized earlier and suspicious fire the night before

Tavis Stevenson, son of Pam and Bruce Stevenson, founders of The Book Shop on Main St, is the creator of the whimsical animal farm carts seen above The Book Shop. He also painted the book mural in the back alley behind the shop. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
The Book Shop in downtown Penticton is one of those rare gems

The Book Shop, like so many businesses, is wanting to turn the page to the end of this pandemic

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Mathieu Bourgault (13) tries unsuccessfully to deflect past West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick during the Warriors’ come-from-behind 7-6 BC Hockey Leaguje pod shootout victory Saturday, May 8, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors rally to edge Salmon Arm in shootout

Warriors overcome three significant deficits to post 7-6 BCHL pod win in Vernon; Silverbacks finish pod 9-7-2-2

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read