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Liberals aim to secure long-term role for feds in national child-care system

New legislation introduced, does not make any specific financial promises
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Families Minister Karina Gould is expected to introduce legislation today to strengthen child care in Canada, which is likely to include an effort to secure a long-term role for Ottawa in the new national daycare system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Families Minister Karina Gould introduced legislation Thursday in an attempt to secure a long-term role for Ottawa in the new national daycare system.

The proposed legislation, known as Bill C-35, sets out the federal government’s commitment to long-term funding for provinces and Indigenous Peoples, as well as the principles that will guide those funds. It does not make any specific financial promises.

The Liberal government brought in a national child-care plan that would cut daycare fees by an average of 50 per cent by the end of this year — and down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

The 2021 federal budget pledged $30 billion in new spending on the national child-care system over five years, with another $9.2 billion annually coming after that.

Enshrining the role of the federal government in the national child-care system could be one way to make it harder to dismantle should another party win the next election.

The Liberal government of former prime minister Paul Martin signed child-care deals with the provinces with the goal of creating a national daycare system in 2005, but Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper cancelled the agreements after he came to power the next year.

Federal officials, who briefed the media on Thursday on the condition they not be named, said if future governments wish to renege on the long-term commitments proposed in the bill, they would have to take the step of repealing or amending the legislation.

The officials said the bill was drafted to respect provincial and territorial jurisdiction and Indigenous rights. They said it also does not impose conditions on other levels of government, which was the top concern of other of those governments during the consultation process.

Any provisions to hold provinces accountable would be part of the individual bilateral agreements signed with each province and territory, which will need to be renegotiated every five years.

The Liberals had promised to introduce the legislation by the end of this year in the confidence-and-supply agreement that would see the New Democrats support the minority government on key votes in the House of Commons to avoid triggering an election before 2025.

—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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