‘It’s not enough’: money at the heart of Ontario-Ottawa child care dispute, sources say

Doug Ford’s government has yet to sign a child care deal with Ottawa in part because of a “money” disagreement, a senior Progressive Conservative Party official said. Ontario.

According to the source, who has not been authorized to speak publicly on the matter, the Trudeau government is ready to offer about $ 10 billion over five years to Canada’s most populous province, so that it can create child care spaces at $ 10 per day in 2026.

The federal Liberals have already signed agreements with seven provinces and one territory: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and the Yukon .

In its latest budget, the Trudeau government pledged a total of $ 30 billion over five years to establish a pan-Canadian child care program. If Ontario received about $ 10 billion from Ottawa, that would be a third of the national envelope.

“It is not enough,” said the senior official of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. “We represent almost 40% of the Canadian population. We need almost 40% of the amount.

The source also highlighted concerns from the Ford government that the province would end up with a program it “cannot afford”, especially as Ontario’s population is growing rapidly.

“We don’t want another Medicare,” he said. Under this agreement, health transfers have declined over time, leaving the provinces to shoulder most of the bill. He hopes, however, that an agreement with the federal government can be reached.

Another source familiar with the matter confirmed that money is one of the main points of contention in the negotiations between Ottawa and Queen’s Park.

This source highlighted how particularly high child care costs are in Ontario. In Toronto, for example, they can exceed $ 2,000 per month. She says some officials therefore believe it will be more expensive in Ontario than elsewhere to lower the cost to $ 10 a day.

“A public shakedown for money”

Asked to comment on the matter, a senior Trudeau government official expressed his displeasure that talks between Ottawa and Ontario were surfacing in the public domain.

“We do not negotiate in the media,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “You will notice that we have eight agreements with the provinces and territories, all made without public questioning of the operators’ money behind the scenes.”

This senior federal official has not confirmed the amount Ottawa has put on the table for Ontario, but says the province will get its “full share in terms of population” and that it is “wrong” to claim opposite.

On Sunday, Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc appeared on Radio-Canada’s Behind the Scenes of Power, where he said it would be impossible for his government to change the funding formula at this point, since most provinces have already signed an agreement with Ottawa.

Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc has recognized that child care agreements are adapted to the reality of each jurisdiction. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

“If seven other provinces have all agreed that this is a fair formula in terms of the number of young children in their jurisdiction,” LeBlanc said on the show, “you will understand that we simply cannot add $ 2-3 billion just because we want to be nice to Doug Ford. “

LeBlanc acknowledged that these agreements are adapted to the reality of each jurisdiction. “There are obviously asymmetric agreements, because the situation in each province is different.”

The minister added that his government is committed to a stable long-term funding model, after the initial five-year agreement, with “about $ 8 billion or $ 9 billion per year.”

“If a future government decided to cancel this funding, it would be like vandalizing an important program for Canadian families,” he said. “I can’t imagine a government would do this.”

LeBlanc called the talks with Premier Ford “very positive” and said he had reason to believe that over the next few weeks all provinces will have signed a deal with the federal Liberals.

Ford should sign deal quickly: lawyer

The Ford government is facing external pressure to accept the deal. Carolyn Ferns, policy coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare, says the province has “a good deal” in its hands, one that “does not require matching costs” and should therefore be signed “as soon as possible. possible ”.

“I just wish the Ford government would listen to the clamor that is being heard in this province for the need for child care,” Ferns said. “Not just longtime advocates like me, but chambers of commerce, families, banks.”

Carolyn Ferns, policy coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, is urging the provincial government to sign on. (Greg Bruce / CBC)

Ferns also pointed out that the Ford government has had the opportunity to invest more in child care services since being elected in 2018, but instead chose to cancel a free early childhood education plan that the previous Liberal government proposed. .

“Before I complain that the federal government is not doing enough when it brings so much to the table,” she said, “I would ask [Doug Ford] to reflect on what his government has done for child care in Ontario.

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