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

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

JANGO the police dog helped track down a suspect on Luckakuck Way in Chilliwack. (RCMP photo)
Alleged thief in Chilliwack can’t fool the nose of JANGO the police dog

An Edmonton man who allegedly broke into a storage container on Luckakuck Way was arrested

Chilliwack RCMP nab two alleged thieves targeting bait vehicle

A man from Port Coquitlam and a woman from Delta were stopped and arrested at Eagle Landing Parkway

The AHL Board of Governors has approved the Vancouver Canucks decision to move their franchise to Abbotsford. (File photo)
AHL approves Canucks’ franchise relocation to Abbotsford

Board of Governors approves move, season set to start on Oct. 15

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read