Insiders say Ottawa and Ontario officials will meet next week to hammer out a daycare deal – Toronto Star

Premier Doug Ford has said that Ottawa’s daycare offer of $10.2 billion shortchanges Ontario.

By Tonda MacCharlesOttawa Bureau

Robert BenzieQueen’s Park Bureau Chief

Fri., Nov. 19, 20212 min. read

OTTAWA—The governments of Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are finally sitting down to formally negotiate a child care agreement, the Star has learned.

Federal and provincial officials will meet Tuesday in a bid to hammer out an agreement that would keep Trudeau’s signature election promise of reducing daily daycare costs to $10 within five years.

Insiders at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa emphasize they both want to reach an agreement. .

The talks will focus on whether the current offer from the federal government can meet the early learning and child care needs of Ontario families.

Ford, who has had informal back-channel talks with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, expressed concern Tuesday that Ontario is being “shortchanged” by Ottawa’s offer of $10.2 billion for a population of 14.8-million people.

By comparison, Alberta, home to 4.4 million people, received $3.8 billion.

For Ontario to receive the same per capita amount as Alberta, Ottawa would need to sweeten the pot by $2.6 billion — to $12.8 billion.

“We’re seeing these deals signed (with other provinces and) they’re more per capita with (fewer) strings attached,” the premier said.

A federal source, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations, said Ottawa has not yet received a complete proposal from Ontario, but called the meeting next week “definite progress.”

The insider stressed Ottawa hopes to negotiate a deal as soon as possible with Queen’s Park.

Sources close to Ford emphasize they also want an accord, but that Ontario’s full-day kindergarten for 260,000 four- and five-year-old children must be taken into account.

That costs the province $3.6 billion annually.

The news comes as Saskatchewan announced it will use money it received from Ottawa — under a $1.1 billion deal struck in August — to retroactively reduce fees for all families with children under the age of six who are in provincially licensed child care.

Part of the federal-provincial child care program created by the federal Liberal government with the 2021 budget is a requirement that provinces reduce child care fees by 50 per cent by the end of 2022, and eventually get to $10-a-day care by 2026.

Already, some provinces with signed deals are moving more swiftly to pass on the benefits.

Alberta signed an agreement on Monday promising to introduce the fee reduction in January.

At a Facebook Live event with Saskatchewan parents and early childhood educators Friday, federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said her own son in is daycare, so she understood how important it is to expand affordability and accessibility.

Gould, the MP for Burlington, said last month after she was named minister in charge of completing the system, she received texts from a friend who told her if she could get $10-a-day care done, the friend might have another child because she “might be able to afford it.”

In some Greater Toronto Area daycares, parents spend as much as $70 a day.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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