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Bill aiming to enshrine Canada-wide child-care system becomes law

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at an Early Learning daycare, in Langley, B.C., on May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at an Early Learning daycare, in Langley, B.C., on May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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A government bill meant to enshrine in law the Liberals' commitment to the Canada-wide early learning and child-care system — and the long-term funding needed to maintain it — received royal assent on Tuesday night.

Bill C-35, otherwise known as the "Canada Early Learning and Child Care Act," seeks to cement the federal government's role beyond the existing early learning and $10-a-day bilateral child-care agreements now in place across the country.

While brief, the bill puts in writing the guiding principles for how to direct child-care funding and create spaces. It also establishes the "National Advisory Council on Early Learning and Child Care" to advise the government on issues in the sector.

The minister responsible — currently Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jenna Sudds — will also be obligated to report to the public annually on progress made with the national system.

The bill was tabled by then-families minister Karina Gould in 2022 — a requirement under the Liberal-NDP supply-and-confidence agreement — and the legislation gradually made its way through the House of Commons and Senate with little controversy.

In the time since this legislation was presented, Statistics Canada data has found that while child care is becoming more affordable for parents, finding care spaces is also getting more challenging.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has said that one of the motivating factors in moving to put into law the federal government's vision of a national early learning and child-care system is to ensure that what is being built can't easily be scrapped by a future federal government.

The bill does have its limitations, as future governments can still amend or repeal this legislation, for example. Despite voicing considerable criticism about the Liberals' handling of the file, the Official Opposition Conservatives did back this bill as amended by MPs when it came up for its final House vote in June.

After senators made amendments to the bill, in an effort to better protect services for official-language minorities, the House of Commons approved the altered version late last month, paving the way for the bill to become law.

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