After Alberta inks deal, Ontario’s resistance on fed’s $10/day childcare puzzles St. Catharines MP

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Published November 16, 2021 at 11:05 am

And then there was one.

The last two holdouts on the federal government’s $10/day childcare agreement – Ontario and Alberta – halved yesterday after Alberta inked the deal with the feds.

At this point, Ontario as the lone province or territory not onside with the federal funding – so far, at least.

That leaves St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle wondering what the provincial holdup is?

“Today (November 15), the Prime Minister announced a $10 a day childcare agreement with the Province of Alberta. The Federal Government has signed childcare agreements with 8 provinces (but not Ontario),” Bittle noted.

“It’s time for the Ford Government to step up and sign a deal. This is a program that is great for families and great for the economy,” he continued. “It will help seriously address labour shortages and get women back into the workforce after significant setbacks during the pandemic.”After being questioned on the matter at Queen’s Park,

Ford officials continue to say they believe they can cut a better deal with the federal government. On the table earmarked for Ontario at the moment is an estimated $10 billion in additional  childcare assistance.

In a letter to Karina Gould, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, dated November 12, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Fleece touts Ontario’s present system and while he says he welcomes “the federal government’s offer to partner in the costs of expanding affordable access to childcare for Ontario families,” he goes on to lay down conditions that he believes Ottawa must meet.

Saying that Ontario has 38 per cent of all Canadian children of childcare age and that our present system is “large and complex,” Lecce goes on to say, “As negotiations resume, we would like to share Ontario’s principles for negotiation and critical elements of any deal for Ontario.”

In other words, rather than sign the deal and take the money as every other province has, Ontario seems to want to negotiate a better deal. Oddly, Lecce seems to believe he’s in a position to do precisely that.

That has the opposition at Queen’s Park screaming “stall tactic” with some even questioning if the letter was backdated to last Friday in an attempt to appear that they engaged with the federal government earlier than they actually had. With Alberta – which has the most Conservative MPs in the country – signing, Ontario’s reluctance has been called little more than partisan political games.

Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, also the NDP Critic of Municipal Affair, pointed out last week that Ontario municipalities are so tired of the gamesmanship that they passing motions to cut deals with the federal government themselves.

“Last week, Niagara Region Council passed a motion asking staff to investigate the potential for them to enter into a direct agreement with the federal government to participate in the national child care strategy. Ontario’s astronomical child care costs are the highest in Canada, yet this government continues to drag its feet and squabble with the federal government,” said Burch.

Indeed, add Toronto and now Hamilton (who passed that motion last night) to the list. The letters that Lecce sent to Gould can be seen below.

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