Let’s Make a Deal

2 minute read

A national childcare program has been a priority for the Liberal government since last year’s budget, and was frequently touted throughout the election campaign. Prime Minister Trudeau’s $30 billion national plan aims to cut the average cost of childcare in half by 2022, reaching $10-a-day by 2026.

Over the last several months, Trudeau has been busy striking deals with provinces across the country, the most recent being Alberta. After some heel dragging, Premier Jason Kenney stood next to Trudeau last week and welcomed the funding. While a Liberal commitment, it was a well-timed announcement for Kenney, who is fighting for his political life as Premier and leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP).

With the overwhelming majority of provinces having signed on, many are asking what it is going to take for Ottawa to come to an agreement with the final holdouts, Ontario and New Brunswick. 

Getting Ontario to sign an agreement is no easy feat. Despite being offered $10 billion to fund the program, Premier Doug Ford is holding firm until Ontario gets (what he describes) as their fair share. From Ford’s perspective, Ontario isn’t being offered the same deal as their provincial counterparts, and until they do, he won’t be signing on. Ford claims the federal offer does not have the cash, longevity, or flexibility that Ontario parents need. 

Instead, the Premier wants to see the childcare deal recognize Ontario’s already significant full-day kindergarten investments; something other provinces who have signed agreements, do not have. Because of this, the province wants more cash to make up for the investments already made in the education system. Additionally, Ford is also concerned about what happens after the first five years of funding, as he doesn’t want Ontario taxpayers footing the bill for a federal promise once the funding term is up. Finally, Ford wants the flexibility to receive the federal funds with very little strings attached; something that other provinces like Quebec have successfully been able to negotiate.

New Brunswick on the other hand has been more open to cooperating with the federal government. For Premier Higgs, coming to an agreement is a balancing act given the province’s unique childcare space situation. Two thirds of childcare centres in the province are privately owned and operated, whose businesses (the government says) must be protected and supported. Both Premier Higgs and Prime Minister Trudeau have signaled that a deal will be reached soon following their most recent agreement to strengthen New Brunswick’s early childhood workforce.

The hurdle facing Trudeau in New Brunswick is certainly smaller than the one facing the Prime Minister in Ontario. Whether or not Ford’s doubts are valid, Prime Minister Trudeau still has some work to do before he gets his $10-a-day, Canada-wide childcare plan across the finish line.

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