Ford says Ontario standing firm on child-care funding demands before making deal

·3 min read

TORONTO — Despite being one of the final holdouts to join Ottawa's affordable child-care plan, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday that he won't budge on his demands as the province negotiates a deal.

This week, Alberta became the eighth province, along with one territory, to sign on to the federal Liberals' plan to spend $30 billion over five years to cut child-care fees to an average of $10 per day across the country.

But Ontario has not yet inked a deal, and Education Minister Stephen Lecce has maintained that the current offer would see Ontario families paying more than $10 per day.

Ford told reporters on Tuesday that he would keep negotiating but not settle for a deal he considers inadequate.

"We'll strike a deal, but I'm not making a bad deal just for the sake of making a deal," Ford told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.

"We've had tougher discussions than this."

He said Ontario is looking for more money than is currently on offer, and wants an agreement with "minimal strings attached," as well as an arrangement that will be "ongoing."

"What's going to happen after five years? They're going to wash their hands and walk away and we're stuck with the funding? No, we need a good deal," Ford said.

He again asked federal politicians and municipalities — some have considered entering their own talks with Ottawa — to stand with him.

The federal minister of families, children and social development said this week that Ontario had not submitted a detailed plan of how it would spend the federal funds.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the federal government is "hopeful" Ontario will overcome its disagreement with Ottawa and come onboard with the affordable childcare plan.

Lecce has also said he wants a deal that recognizes the $3.6 billion the province spends annually on full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-old children.

However, that position has sparked concerns from the Opposition New Democrats and the union representing elementary teachers that the province wants the federal government to pay for kindergarten in a bid to save provincial funds.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario accused the Ford government on Tuesday of not "(understanding) the difference between kindergarten and child care," noting that kindergarten is part of the education system.

“Federal child care funds are intended to make a difference for families and should not be used by the provincial government to displace current funding for public education,” union president Karen Brown said in a statement.

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked in the legislature on Tuesday about the lack of progress on a final deal, noting that cost of living is going up and families are waiting for more affordable child-care services.

"Does the government not get the urgency here that families actually need a break and $10-a-day child care would be a great break?" she said. "Why do we not have that child-care deal right now?"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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