Ottawa working hard on child care and early learning, minister says

Posted on September 2, 2018 in Child & Family Policy Context, Education Debates – Opinion/Contributors
Sept. 2, 2018.   By

Having read Laurie Monsebraaten’s piece on child care and Budget 2018, (“Child care all but forgotten in Ottawa’s gender budget,” March 3), I feel it is important to both highlight what our government has done on early learning and child care so far, and where we envision Canada going in the coming years.

Our commitment to empowering women and parents to be full participants in the labour market goes well beyond the measures in Budget 2018 that promote gender equality and more flexibility for parents. It was at the core of our first budget in 2016, where we invested $500 million towards establishing a National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, and introduced the Canada Child Benefit — a more generous, tax-free benefit that helps nine out of 10 Canadian families with the high costs of essential expenses like child care, nutritious food, and clothing.

Last year, we took our commitment one step further. First, in Budget 2017, we invested an additional $7 billion over 10 years in early learning and child care, and in June we followed that up by signing Canada’s first-ever Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care with our provincial and territorial partners.

After a decade of neglect and inaction at the federal level, in which the previous government left provinces and territories to fend for themselves, and parents — particularly mothers — were forced to bear a greater child-care burden, last June’s agreement represented an important re-engagement by the federal government. It demonstrated that we understood the need for all Canadian families to have access to early learning and child care that is affordable, flexible and inclusive, as well as the important leadership role the federal government must play in helping Canadian children get the best possible start in life.

As we’ve worked with our provincial and territorial partners, we’ve been mindful of the fact last June’s agreement is just a first step on a longer journey towards something bigger — a very important step, but a first step nonetheless.

As I said at the time, the multilateral framework represents an aspirational goal, and is part of a long-term vision for early learning and child care that is coherent with universality. Budget 2018 is a key component of this long-term vision, and builds on the promise of our first two budgets.

Our multilateral framework isn’t just enabling provinces to build their child-care capacity by creating more spaces and enhancing quality, it is also supporting tens of thousands of working mothers and parents in entering and returning to the workforce. Budget 2018 continues this work by enhancing the Canada Child Benefit, and giving parents greater flexibility through the EI Parental Sharing Benefit.

In Ontario, we’re already seeing our re-engagement with our provincial and territorial partners pay off. Thanks in part to the agreement we signed with the province last summer, over the next five years the government of Ontario will be establishing 100 new EarlyON Child and Family Centres, creating 45,000 new child-care spots in schools and other community spaces, and helping 100,000 more young children access early years and child-care programs and services.

Across Toronto and throughout Ontario, children and families are benefiting from the federal government’s renewed engagement in early learning and child care. Across Canada, we’re pleased to have reinvigorated the child-care conversation, and are proud of the changes created by our re-engagement and investment with the provinces and territories.

As this child-care conversation develops and evolves, we look forward to welcoming all our partners — provinces and territories, advocates and, of course, families — to the table, so we can ensure that no one is left behind, and that every Canadian child has the best chance to reach their full potential.

Jean-Yves Duclos is the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

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