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

Just Posted

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

As they carry out a FireSmart assessment in Salmon Arm, firefighters Carmen Guidos and Steve St. Denis show one of the easy-to-rectify fire hazards that can exist for unsuspecting residents. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Column: Lessons on welcoming a wildfire into your home

The View From Here by Martha Wickett

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read