Duclos says feds, provinces on fast-track to set up national child care program

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OTTAWA - The federal families minister says he and his provincial counterparts appear to be on the fast-track towards a long-discussed national child care program.

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This article was published 05/02/2016 (2431 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA – The federal families minister says he and his provincial counterparts appear to be on the fast-track towards a long-discussed national child care program.

The federal and provincial governments should be able to quickly come to an agreement on a framework for a national early learning and child care program because they aren’t starting from scratch, Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday.

He cited past agreements on the principles of a child-care system and work in the intervening years by provinces to improve services.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 2, 2016. The federal families minister says he and his provincial counterparts appear to be on the fast-track towards a long-discussed national child care program. The federal and provincial governments should be able to quickly come to an agreement on a framework for a national early learning and child care program because they aren't starting from scratch, Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Duclos said the government wants to improve the quality of existing child care spaces, make those spaces more affordable for families and create new spaces for families that find it hard to access quality child care.

“We are most likely going to be going quite quickly in relative terms because … we’re not starting from nowhere,” Duclos said after meeting with his provincial counterparts in Edmonton.

The federal government, he said, is open to crafting a flexible child care framework that meets the needs of every province.

“A one-for-all model is not possible in Canada. That would be unfair to the efforts that various provinces have made in the past,” Duclos said.

The provinces and federal government signed agreements for a national daycare plan in 2005 under Paul Martin’s Liberal government.

The Conservatives cancelled the deals in 2006 and replaced the funding to provinces with a universal child care benefit directly to families.

In the intervening years, provinces have moved ahead with their own programs: Quebec has its subsidized system that now has parents pay up to $20 a day; Manitoba and P.E.I. cap how much daycares can charge; Alberta has promised a $25-a-day child care system contingent on its finances being strong enough to support it; and Ontario has introduced all-day junior and senior kindergarten.

“Certainly we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Every jurisdiction has work going on…and we will build upon that work,” said Alberta Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir.

The federal government doesn’t directly fund child care — except $55 million each year for First Nations and Inuit — because child care is a provincial responsibility. Sabir said federal dollars could help provinces pay for their growing child care services, and help the Alberta NDP follow through on their promised child care plan.

“Federal support certainly is very much needed at this point when Alberta’s finances are not in the best shape due to the dropping resource revenues,” he said.

The Liberals promised a child-care framework in their election platform, but didn’t put firm numbers and details on what they wanted to see, as the NDP did in promising to spend $5 billion for a $15-a-day program modelled on the government-funded system in Quebec.

Duclos said the funding needs for child care are immense, but “resources are limited on all fronts, the federal government included.”

The federal and provincial governments need to work together to use those resources to get the best outcomes, he added.

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