The federal government is diving into the deep end of child care, promising billions in new spending for provinces tocreate spaces and drive down fees. Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The federal government is diving into the deep end of child care, promising billions in new spending for provinces tocreate spaces and drive down fees. Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Federal Budget 2021: Liberals pledge $30B for child care with eye to reducing fees

The proposal addresses calls not only from advocates but from business groups as well

The federal government is diving into the deep end of child care, promising billions in new spending for provinces to create spaces and drive down fees.

The Liberals’ 2021 budget doesn’t commit or estimate how many new spaces could be created by the spending, focusing instead on the cost to parents.

The plan would aim to see an average drop in fees next year by 50 per cent for preschooler daycare spaces that last year ranged from about $451 per month in Winnipeg to $1,250 a month in Toronto.

Eventually, the Liberals aim to have an average fee of $10 a day across the country outside of Quebec, which has its own system.

The proposal addresses calls not only from advocates but from business groups as well, to help thousands of mothers return to the labour force after their numbers dwindled due to daycare closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bringing down parent fees by publicly funding the operation of regulated services is the way to build the universal quality system needed by families in communities in all regions of Canada,” said Morna Ballantyne, executive director of the advocacy group Child Care Now.

She added that provinces and territories, who are responsible for child care, will be hard pressed to say no to the offer of federal money, even if it does come with strings attached.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the plan won’t arrive in an instant, noting it is a long-term strategy that will take a countrywide effort to invest in children and young parents.

“This is going to be an enduring investment in making it possible for parents, and especially women, to participate in the labour force,” Freeland said at a news conference.

“I really do not want to understate either the complexity and the difficulty of building early-learning and child care, nor to understate how transformational this will be for women, for all parents, for children and for the Canadian economy.”

Spending would start at just over $3 billion a year, not taking into account the government’s pre-existing 10-year spend on child care unveiled four years ago.

Funding rises from there to reach almost $8.4 billion in new spending annually by 2026. The budget projections stop at that point, after what the document describes as an initial five-year agreement designed to have the federal government cover half of national child-care funding.

David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who keeps a close eye on child-care policy, said the overall spend is comparatively larger to plans previously unveiled by Brian Mulroney in 1987, the Chretien Liberals in 1993 and the Martin Liberals in 2005.

“All of these previous child care plans were dashed against the rocks of an election,” he said.

“This budget has the potential to be transformative for the sector, if the high hopes of activists aren’t dashed in the next election.”

The first five years of the Liberals’ plan will focus on support for not-for-profit providers, leaving out for-profit centres and unregulated care.

After year five, the budget says the government will work with provinces and territories to revisit funding needs based on what the money has purchased to that point.

“All families will pay for the plan, but only families who choose or can access the type of care the federal government favours receive the subsidized benefit,” said Andrea Mrozek, a senior fellow at the faith-based think-tank Cardus.

“The proposed plan devalues the work parents and other caregivers do outside of an institutional setting.”

The budget also commits $34.5 million more to a federal secretariat that is guiding policy work inside the government, and the creation of a national advisory council to highlight needs, concerns and issues in the sector.

And it also promises legislation by the fall to enshrine the spending into law so it cannot be easily undone or watered down by a change in government or cabinet priorities.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

2021 Federal BudgetCoronavirusfederal government

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

Just Posted

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

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

(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’

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

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

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

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Most Read