The concept of “option” in child care might play out in the upcoming federal election

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In one way, the summer of 2021 resembles the fall of 2005: with an election coming, a minority Liberal government is pursuing agreements with provinces to increase access to child care an effort that the opposition Conservatives appear to oppose.

When the Conservatives took office in January 2006, they basically won that debate. But there are some significant variations between then and now, and the talking points that were effective in 2005 may no longer be effective now.

By the end of November 2005, Paul Martin’s Liberal government had signed bilateral agreements with each province to increase access to and quality of child care programs. The federal government committed a total of $5 billion over a five-year period.

Those agreements, however, were quickly rendered null and void. The Liberals were reduced to 103 seats and out of power less than two months after the previous agreement was struck.

After 15 years, Justin Trudeau’s administration has pledged to provide provinces with up to $30 billion over the next five years — and $8.3 billion per year after that to promote an increase in “excellent” and “affordable” child care.

British Columbia became the first jurisdiction to join last week. It will get $3.2 billion over five years, with pledges to build 30,000 additional places and lower child care prices.

The transaction is more than just a money transfer. It establishes a joint implementation committee and contains measures for data collecting and underserved populations. The deal includes a plan by the federal government to introduce new child care laws this autumn.