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Canada: Corbella: Trudeau's crass favouritism towards Quebec is bad for national unity in child-care deal

Ottawa, P.E.I. strike new child-care deal aiming for $10 daily fees within 3 years

  Ottawa, P.E.I. strike new child-care deal aiming for $10 daily fees within 3 years The federal government and Prince Edward Island have agreed to a new funding deal that aims to reduce child-care fees on the island to $10 per day by the end of 2024. The funding will also cut child-care fees in half by the end of 2022 for children under six who attend regulated child-care facilities, according to the federal government. "This ambitious timeline goes to show not only how dedicated P.E.I.

And the federal government hits against Alberta just keep on coming.

a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Minister of Children's Services Rebecca Schulz. © Provided by Calgary Herald Minister of Children's Services Rebecca Schulz.

Thursday’s was a doozy.

A grinning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government is transferring about $6 billion to Quebec over five years in connection with its national child-care program, with no strings attached — Quebec’s government can spend those billions any way it wants.

It’s a real slap in the face to Albertans to watch Trudeau throw tax dollars around with abandon in his push toward an unnecessary early election in his bid to win a majority government, but without any sense of parity or fairness.

$10-a-day N.L. child care expected by 2023 with $347M federal-provincial agreement

  $10-a-day N.L. child care expected by 2023 with $347M federal-provincial agreement Newfoundland and Labrador will have more affordable childcare by 2023, according to Premier Justin Trudeau who made the announcement in St. John's on Wednesday.Trudeau said an agreement has been reached between the federal and provincial governments to make child care more accessible and more affordable for parents at an announcement at the College of the North Atlantic on Prince Philip Drive in St. John's on Wednesday.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, standing next to Trudeau, crowed about the arrangement, calling it a “beautiful victory for Quebec families” and described the deal as “asymmetric,” meaning that while the feds imposed conditions on the money it gave to other provinces for child care, Quebec has none.

Legault refused to say he would actually spend the child-care money on child care. He would only say that “a significant portion” of the $6 billion will go toward completing the province’s child-care system.

Alberta’s Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said she was “frustrated,” because just one day earlier during a phone call with her federal counterpart — Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen — she specifically asked if any provinces would receive child-care dollars with no conditions and she was told no.

Advocates say $10-a-day child care on P.E.I. is 'a long time coming'

  Advocates say $10-a-day child care on P.E.I. is 'a long time coming' P.E.I. Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he was “really pleased” to hear Tuesday’s announcement but believes the initiative may indicate an upcoming federal election. © Kirk Pennell/CBC Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party of P.E.I., says wages for early childhood educators should be increased. "It's a well-worn tradition for federal parties, particularly those who were in power prior to a potential election to open the bank vaults and do stuff like this," he said. However, Bevan-Baker said regardless of the federal government's reason behind the initiative, it's still a positive step for P.

“Today’s announcement between the federal government and Quebec was somewhat frustrating given just yesterday we were told that no province would be given the child-care dollars without conditions,” Schulz said during a telephone interview Thursday night.

In fact, unlike Quebec, “the money the feds will give to Alberta for early learning and child care would at least be fully invested in child care” said Schulz.

“But given what we think is a very quickly coming federal election, we don’t want Alberta parents to be waiting, we would love to come to an agreement now.”

She said she told Hussen that Alberta’s and the federal government’s goals are aligned. “I believe that we can meet the goals of the federal government as well as the unique needs of Alberta parents. And we were told that that type of flexibility is not something that any province would be receiving. And so that’s why today’s announcement, while I’m very happy for Quebec and I do understand that they already have a $10-a-day program in place, it was a little bit frustrating,” said Schulz.

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A little bit frustrating?

Try a lot frustrating. After all, it’s frustratingly safe to say that Quebec has been able to afford a $10-a-day daycare program for decades now thanks mostly to Alberta’s net contributions to federal coffers that, on a per-capita basis, is greater than any other province by a margin as wide as the Prairies and high as the Rocky Mountains.

In a letter she sent to Hussen dated July 28, Schulz reminded the minister that Alberta is the largest net contributor to Confederation by far.

“Every year, Alberta taxpayers send billions more to the federal government than they receive in transfers and spending in return. Some recent estimates peg Alberta’s net contribution since 2007 at a staggering $240 billion.”

This continues to be the case even as Alberta has been suffering through a brutal recession and has been running enormous budget deficits. Quebec has been running surpluses — while receiving about $8 billion annually in federal transfer payments.

Perhaps if more of our own tax dollars came back this way, Alberta parents also could avail themselves of cheaper child-care programs that the provincial government is planning to implement. As the province with the youngest population, Alberta arguably could use this more than any other province. In 2021, Alberta has more than 743,200 children aged 12 and under.

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a person sitting at a table in a room:  A child-care centre in Calgary. Photo taken on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. © Provided by Calgary Herald A child-care centre in Calgary. Photo taken on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Schulz says she believes Alberta can reduce child-care fees to $10 per day or less for low-income families and slash child-care fees by an average of half, while respecting the choices that many parents make, including out-of-school care and overnight child care.

“What we know from a $25-a-day pilot program in Alberta (run under the former NDP government) . . . is that there really was a desire to make sure that tax dollars, especially at a time when the economy is in a difficult place and we are being very responsible with tax dollars that we have, but that these are being invested in places where they absolutely make the most difference,” Schulz said. “That we’re able to invest in things like overnight child care for shift-working parents — nurses, firefighters, those working in industry — and also for out-of-school care for children who are aged six to 12, these are all really important things and that’s why we asked for the flexibility Quebec received today.”

The main criticism of Quebec’s child-care system is it tends to cater to families with nine-to-five jobs and leaves shift workers struggling.

The federal government has already signed child-care deals with British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Yukon, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Meanwhile, while the feds were signing deals with other provinces, Alberta didn’t even receive its “term sheet” until weeks after every other province, including after some provinces had already signed final agreements, said Schulz.

“We don’t want Alberta parents and early childhood educators to be left behind should an early election call further stall negotiations.”

Quebec, with its 78 federal seats — many of which may go Liberal and away from the unpopular Bloc Quebecois — compared to Alberta’s 34 seats, none of which will likely go Liberal, is a purely political ploy by Trudeau.

It’s smart politics but a hit to national unity.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

[email protected]

Twitter: @LiciaCorbella

Rex Murphy: Trudeau's vanity runneth over. Why else would we have an election? .
The word from every sage source, from within the cavernous atrium of CBC Toronto to the tom-toms of the Twitter undergrowth, even unto the seers in the nation’s political science departments where wisdom has her own happy seat, is that this fractious, cantankerous, debt-drowned and perplexed country of ours is to have an election. They tell us it is to be called on Sunday. Normally a day of prayer and worship, but when there’s a writ to be issued, cancel the Sunday bulletins, forget the rash of church burnings, and the turmoil of lockdowns and business collapses — hey, it’s late summer: let’s go to the polls.

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