November 12, 2019

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'Time we invest in child care': Green leader

Provincial Green Leader James Beddome. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Provincial Green Leader James Beddome. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Manitoba Green party is pushing a sliding scale for child-care fees, vowing to add 2,000 spaces per year over the next decade.

On Tuesday, Green Leader James Beddome unveiled the party's plan if elected Sept. 10, which will theoretically eliminate the 16,000-name provincial child-care wait list.

Beddome pegged the cost of the 2,000 child-care spaces per year/10-year expansion at $31 million annually, based on an average construction cost of $15,000, with an estimated annual cost of $1.1 million for maintenance.

"The long and short is that it's time we invest in child care," Beddome said in Winnipeg, flanked by Green candidates and supporters. "The reality is that under multiple PC and NDP governments... the formulas of child care haven't been substantially updated since Howard Pawley was (NDP) premier in 1986."

The Greens would guarantee no low-income family pays child-care fees, and child-care fees are capped at a maximum of 10 per cent of net family income, moving up on a sliding scale. The party believes the update would see an influx of up to 18,000 parents into the workforce, a change it estimates would add $1.58 billion to the province's economy and generate $287 million in annual government revenue.

Beddome was adamant the province continue to prioritize not-for-profit child-care, criticizing the recently proposed Progressive Conservative plan, which included a provision for capital grants to develop private early-learning and child-care centres. Ninety-five per cent of the province's child-care centres are not-for-profit, the Green leader said.

"The PC plan is really a plan to privatize child care in this province," Beddome said.

He also criticized the Tory government under Premier Brian Pallister for allowing the number of unfunded child-care centres to increase substantially. There are currently 2,691 child-care spaces operating without funding following a 2016 Conservative freeze.

The Green plan did not contain measures for restoring funding to those centres. Beddome indicated those details would be given out later.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @benjwaldman

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