Liberals want to protect national child care program with legislation

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Liberals want to protect national child care program with legislation

The bill was drafted with respect for provincial and territorial jurisdiction, as well as respect for Indigenous rights, according to senior federal officials.

Federal Families Minister Karina Gould introduced legislation on Thursday that aims to solidify Ottawa's long-term participation in the new national child care system.

Bill C-35 would enshrine in law the federal government's commitment to long-term program funding for provinces and Indigenous communities, as well as the principles that should guide such funding federal.

The text does not contain any specific financial promise for this national program, but this entrenchment in law could make it more difficult for a future government to dismantle it.

The Liberal government has introduced a national program center that is to reduce daycare fees by an average of 50% by the end of the year and bring them down to an average of $10 a day by 2026.

The 2021 federal budget provided $30 billion in new spending for the national child care system over five years, and an additional $9.2 billion in subsequent years.

We want to protect what we have built, Minister Gould said at a press conference on Thursday.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre had previously announced that his party, if elected, would abolish the current child care scheme and replace it with a tax credit that will go directly to families.

Paul Martin's Liberal government signed agreements with the provinces in 2005 to create a national child care system, but Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper canceled those agreements after taking office the following year. /p>

A future Conservative government would not be able to scrap the Liberals' new agenda as hastily as Mr. Harper did, the studies professor noted studies at the University of Manitoba Susan Prentice.

If future governments wish to backtrack on the long-term commitments proposed in the bill, they will need to take the lead in repealing or amending the legislation, Minister Gould pointed out.

Federal Family Minister Karina Gould at Question Period Thursday, December 8, 2022

“The Conservatives couldn't scrap the program on the sly. They should tell Canadians very publicly that they don't believe in affordable child care.

— Karina Gould, Federal Minister for Families

Senior federal officials told reporters Thursday morning that if future governments wanted to backtrack on the long-term commitments proposed in the bill, they would have to make the move to repeal or amend the law.

Officials said the bill was drafted with respect for provincial and territorial jurisdiction, as well as respect for Indigenous rights.

They further argued that the bill also did not impose conditions on other levels of government – ​​which was the primary concern of some provincial governments during the consultation process.

The bill remains reluctant to go too far into provincial jurisdiction, according to Professor Prentice.

Any provision to ensure that provinces assume their part of the agreement would be part of individual bilateral agreements signed with each province and territory, which must be renegotiated every five years.

At the moment it may be the best we have, she said, adding that she hopes the legislation will be continuously improved over time.

There may actually be a point where stricter terms and conditions are incorporated, but at the moment I still think this signals a very important drastic change.

The fact that fees have already been reduced will make it politically difficult for provinces to opt out of the program after the current five-year term ends in 2026, Gould said.

They would leave a lot of federal money on the table, but more importantly, they would leave a lot of families in trouble, she said.

The Liberals had promised to introduce the bill by the end of this year, under the “support and confidence agreement” reached with the New Democrats last March. With this agreement, the minority Liberal government is assured of the support of New Democrats in votes of confidence in the House of Commons, in order to avoid an election being called before 2025.

This means that it is almost certain that the bill will pass.

If passed, the law will also hold the ministry accountable every year to the public of federal contributions to funding, accessibility and affordability of services.

The bill also provides for the creation of a national advisory council on early learning and child care, which the government announced at the end of November.

As Quebec has already set up its own network of reduced-contribution educational childcare services in the 1990s, he did not join the federal program, but received full compensation from Ottawa financial.

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