Bringing Ontario’s Childcare Deal Across the Finish Line

2 minute read

The federal government has been working to secure agreements with provinces for a national childcare deal for several months. The holdout is the country’s most populous province, with Ontario having yet to finalize an agreement. The pressure is on ahead of the next budget cycle, and with a provincial election campaign on the horizon, to get a deal over the finish line. 

The 2021 federal budget laid out a plan to provide Canadian parents with $10-a-day regulated childcare spaces for children under six years old, within the next five years. This long-promised, $30 billion investment was a historic one, and a core focus of the Trudeau government’s re-election campaign. All provinces have come to an agreement with the federal government, with the exception of Ontario.  

Predictably, both levels of government have blamed one another for the hold up. Ontario is set on negotiating more funds to make this deal equal to that of other provinces (particularly those who do not already have full-time kindergarten programs). Premier Ford has cited that $10.2 billion is simply not enough to execute this program throughout the province. As the deal needs to be reached before March 31, the Ford government submitted a spending plan that is now being reviewed by the federal government. If this deal is not approved, it will mean that the province misses out on over a billion dollars of federal funding to support child-care in the first year of funding.

While the end of the fiscal year is one pressure point, the rising cost of living for families is another. Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to this recently, noting “the common ground that [both governments] always shared is a desire to see costs lower for hardworking families across Ontario, and indeed across the country and do the things that are going to help them get ahead.” Creation of early childhood educator roles is another key part to the negotiation, with childhood educators urging increased funding to support the creation of new practitioner roles (with an emphasis on placement in marginalized and rural communities). Fortunately for parents, it seems the two sides are closer today than they’ve been before. Speaking to the agreement, Premier Ford noted the deal will be finalized “sooner rather than later.”  Ford in particular doesn’t have much time to spare; the provincial election is fast approaching, with roughly another six weeks before the official campaign period begins. The Ford government likely wants to confirm this deal before that happens, and bring a significant “win” to voters before the campaign even begins. The delivery of agreements with all provinces is also a major milestone for the Trudeau government, who are likely looking to switch gears from COVID-19 management to more proactive and positive news. With significant political capital at stake, both sides will be working hard to get a deal done in the next ten days.

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