François Legault has announced he would set the daily rate for subsidized daycare at $8.05 per child, regardless of parents' income levels, if elected Quebec's next premier.
The announcement came on Tuesday, more than a week before the official start of the election campaign on Aug. 23, as members of Quebec's major political parties continued to tour the province in an effort to court voters.
The $8.05 daily rate would be adjusted for the cost of living in the years ahead, Legault said in a statement.
Under the CAQ's proposal, all Quebec parents would be charged the same daily rate, regardless of their annual income.
That's a departure from the current system. The current minimum daily rate is $8.05 per child, and that rises if parents fall into higher income brackets.
CAQ, Liberals trade barbs over daycare costs
Geneviève Guilbault, the CAQ's family policy critic, said Philippe Couillard's Liberal government raised daycare rates, going back on a 2014 campaign promise that he wouldn't do so.
"Once he was elected he did the exact opposite and increased those rates," Guilbault told CBC News.
She criticized the Liberals for charging families with higher incomes more for subsidized daycare.
Dominique Anglade, Quebec's deputy premier and minister of economy, science and innovation, defended the government's approach, however.
"What we are proposing is adjusting the rate according to family income and we think this is an acceptable approach," she said.
She also shot back at the criticism on Tuesday, saying the CAQ and Guilbault have come out in favour of private daycare in the past.
Asked about that, Guilbault said parents should have the right to choose what type of daycare they send their children to. "We have always stuck up for liberty," she said.
Sliding scale currently
Lucien Bouchard's Parti Québécois government introduced $5-a-day daycare in 1997. The rate was increased to $7 per day in 2004 by the Liberal government of Jean Charest.
Premier Couillard's first budget in 2014 raised that base rate to $7.30 daily and introduced higher rates for parents with higher incomes.
The present system sets a daily rate for subsidized daycare at $8.05 per child for families with taxable incomes under $51,340.
The rate goes up to $8.75 for the next-highest income bracket — for people with a taxable annual income up to $77,005 — and can be as high as $21.95 for a family with a combined, taxable income of $165,005 or more.
Promises coming ahead of official campaign launch
The daycare debate came on a busy day for members of Quebec's major political parties on Tuesday.
Thirteen Liberal ministers made announcements throughout the day, from pledging financial support for English-speaking Quebecers and compensation for the families of murder victims to detailing a program for a new link across the St. Lawrence in Quebec City.
Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée and MNA Véronique Hivon have been visiting ridings the party hopes to win in the Oct. 1 election.
The PQ has promised a base daycare rate of $8.05 per day for a first child, $4 per day for a second child, and free of charge for a third child or more per family.
Québec solidaire plans to offer free education, including free daycare, for all Quebecers.