As I mentioned in a news story earlier this week, Canada released its 2021–2022 federal budget, the first budget since March 2019. One thing it contained was a plan to build a national $10-a-day childcare system.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s finance minister, announced the budget this past Monday. In it, she claimed that the Liberal government plans to spend up to $27.2 billion over the next 5 years to build “a high-quality, affordable and accessible early learning and childcare system across Canada.”
By the end of the 5 years, the annual federal spend on the budget calls the National Early Learning and Child Care Plan will be $8.3 billion, which Freeland referred to as “permanent”.
As well, Freeland claimed that by the end of the 5 years, parent who accessed the national childcare programme would be paying, on average, $10 a day.
According to the budget, this funding could help reduce average fees for regulated early learning and child care by 50% in all provinces outside of Quebec by the end of 2022. It will also encourage annual growth in “quality and affordable child care spaces”.
The budget included a chart using data from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which showed that the media gross childcare fees of 35 cities in Canada range from $181 in Québec City, Montréal, and Gatineau to $1,578 in Toronto.
Québec has a provincial childcare programme, where the government subsidizes the cost of childcare so that parents pay only $8.35 a day per child. If we ignore the Québec cities in this chart, then median gross child care costs actually range from $451 a month in Winnipeg to the $1,578 previously mentioned in Toronto.
The media gross childcare costs among the 35 cities is $990 a month, and $1,013.50 among the 32 non-Québec cities. That works out to be about $32.55 and $33.32 per day, respectively.
The federal budget claims that since Québec implemented subsidized childcare in 1997, childcare on its own has raised that province’s GDP by 1.7%. It also reports that according the TD Economics, “for every $1 spent on early childhood education, the broader economy receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return.”
A federal childcare programme could, according to the budget, create 240,000 more jobs and increase real per capita GDP by 1.2%.
To make it possible, the federal government will have to work with provinces and territories, since ultimately, they will be the ones administering the system. Functionally, it wouldn’t be a national system per se, but rather an collaborative collection of provincial and territorial systems, propped up by the federal government.
To sweeten the deal for the provincial and territorial governments, the feds hope to—starting this year—implement a 50/50 funding model, which will have the federal government cover half the costs of childcare in each province and territory.
In addition, Ottawa intends to create a new National Advisory Council, which will offer advice and consultation on issues and challenges that childcare providers face.
They hope to table federal childcare legislation later this year—following consultation with stakeholders and Indigenous, provincial, and territorial partners—to enshrine a long-term commitment of the federal government to a nationwide childcare system into law.
Part of the plan is to “support primarily not-for-profit sector child care providers” as the provinces move toward increasing total available childcare spaces.
The federal government also plans to spend over $29 million through Employment and Social Development Canada to help as many as 400 childcare providers improve physical accessibility in their centres.
As well as the nearly $30 billion the government plans to spend on making $10-a-day childcare possible, they announced $2.5 billion over 5 years as part of the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, which originated in 2018.
Of that, $1.4 billion will help create up to 3,300 new childcare spaces designed specifically for the unique needs of Indigenous families, as well as “allow providers to offer more flexible and full-time hours of care, build, train and retain a skilled workforce”.
Another $515 million over the same 5-year period will be allocated to support before- and after-school care for First Nations children on reserve.
Starting next year, the federal government plans to spend $264 million over 4 years to help child care providers repair and renovate existing centres.
Finally, the government had promised $420 million in 3-year funding (starting in 2023–24) to build and maintain new childcare centres in Indigenous communities.
It’s been over 50 years since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada called on the federal government establish a national daycare plan with the province and territories. Government after government—conservative and liberal—have ignored this mandate.
That being said, the Liberals under Paul Martin had come pretty close to implementing a national childcare programme, to the point of even having reached bilateral agreements between the federal and provincial governments. But then Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was elected in, and they scrapped the programme just before it was about to launch.
With the threat of a 2021 federal election on the horizon, will this announcement actually come to fruition, or will it be a repeat of what happened 15 years ago, amounting to not much more than posturing?
And that’s on top of the fact that some provinces, including Alberta and Ontario, seem to be not on board with the proposed programme.