Mulcair pressed on feasibility of child-care plan
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, September 21, 2015 6:44PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 24, 2015 2:52PM EDT
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair continues to face questions over the timeline and feasibility of his promise to create one million affordable child care spaces.
In an interview with CTV Atlantic’s Steve Murphy, Mulcair was asked whether the plan would benefit parents who currently have pre-school-aged children.
“Everybody with a young children today has an interest in making sure we have for the future a quality, affordable child care system,” the NDP leader responded.
When asked when the plan will be fully realized, Mulcair told Murphy the details have been published and “everybody can go online and find it.”
When pressed, Mulcair said, “it’s eight years, but at the end of the first mandate, at the end of four years, it will already be 60 per cent in place.”
The NDP has spelled out in documents from the beginning that its plan for one million spaces costing parents no more than $15 a day would take eight years to fully achieve, and that the provinces would need to agree to provide 40 per cent of the funding.
Last fall, the party offered journalists a document that showed it would create 60,000 spaces in 2015-16 and ramp that up to 370,000 by 2018-19. The party said the cost, once fully implement, would be about $5 billion.
Recent costing documents show they plan to spend about far less than that in the early years: $659 million in 2016-17, $1.284 billion in 2017-18, $1.929 billion in 2018-19 and $2.604 billion in 2019-20.
However, those details have sometimes been missing from the literature presented to voters. For example, there is no mention of the timeline or provincial funding requirements on the website NDP.ca/childcare or in a minute-long promotional video where Mulcair pitches the plan and calls the new spaces “just an election away.”
Mulcair was also asked Monday whether “poor provinces” such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. would be willing to partner.
“We've been very careful to tell the provinces it's not one size fits all,” he replied to Murphy.
“We're going to talk with them, we're going to show them why it will be in their interest,” he added.
Mulcair went on to say that the plan is “something we can’t afford not to do,” citing a study headed by economist Pierre Fortin that concluded low-cost child care in Quebec had been an economic boon.
“Seventy thousand women in Quebec went back to work,” Mulcair said. “(There was) an increase of two per cent in the provincial GDP. More money went into government coffers than what it cost.”
Mulcair also said that money provinces “already put into” child care “will be taken into account.”
“We'll start investing in this right away,” he added. “And we've already got several provinces that say we're interested in getting to the table.”
So far, two of the largest provinces have not agreed to the plan. The B.C. government has said it will be taking no position during the election campaign.
The Ontario Liberals voted last November in favour of an Ontario NDP motion calling on the province to “partner with the Federal Government to ensure that every parent in Ontario has access to childcare at a cost of no more than $15 a day per child.”
However, Ontario’s education minister said in August that Mulcair had not provided sufficient details to determine whether Ontario would buy in.
New Brunswick’s Liberal Premier Brian Gallant, meanwhile, was asked about the NDP’s child care plan earlier this month. He said that while day care is a priority, “we can’t be supportive of something we haven’t seen.”
“We would have some concerns in terms of what the cost would be for us as a province,” Gallant told CTV Atlantic.
The Alberta government says it’s continuing to work towards its own $25-a-day child care plan, but will work with whatever government is elected federally.
"We will consider any federal proposal that helps improve the accessibility and affordability of child care for Albertans," said Alberta Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir in a statement.
The federal Liberal Party has long been critical. In August, Toronto Liberal Candidate Adam Vaughan called the plan a mirage. “Mulcair is promising daycare spaces but has no idea whether he can actually deliver them,” he said.
At a campaign stop Monday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told a crowd that “people will have to wait two or three election cycles for what (Mulcair is) promising.”
Trudeau then touted his plan to help families, which includes working with provinces, territories and First Nations to create an unspecified number of “affordable, early learning and child care spaces across the country.”
The Liberal Leader also reiterated a previous promise for a Canada Child Benefit that he said would offer a typical family earning $90,000 a year $2,500 more tax free than the current Universal Child Care Benefit introduced by the Conservatives.
Mulcair pointed out in the interview with Murphy that previous Liberal and Conservative governments had both promised to create child care spaces.
“They never got it done,” he said.
“That’s the big difference,” he added. “We’ve got a plan.”