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Trudeau's latest pre-budget pledge targets millennial moms, vowing $1B in loans for more child-care spaces

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The federal government is launching a new loan program to help child-care providers in Canada expand their spaces, and will be extending further student loan forgiveness and training options for early childhood educators, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday.

The prime minister unveiled a trio of child-care-centric commitments that will be included in the upcoming federal budget, with the aim of opening up more $10-a-day child-care spaces across the country, as the Liberals continue to work towards creating 250,000 new spaces by March 2026.

Specifically, the Liberals are vowing to offer $1 billion in low-cost loans and $60 million in non-repayable grants to public and not-for-profit child-care providers, so they can build or renovate their care centres. 

This funding will be administered through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMCH), which Trudeau called "a common sense approach that will help child care be developed alongside housing."

An additional $48 million is being earmarked for the next four years to extend student loan forgiveness — similar to the program offered to rural doctors and nurses — to early childhood educators, in an effort to incentivize more teachers to work in smaller communities. 

The federal government is also promising $10 million over the next two years to train more early childhood educators.

The prime minister, speaking in Surrey, B.C., alongside the minister currently leading the file, Jenna Sudds, touted the bilateral child-care agreements in effect across the country for seeing thousands of children placed in affordable spaces.

However, in recent months Canadian parents and care providers have sounded alarms about increasingly long daycare waitlists. And, operators in some provinces have threatened to withdraw from the lower-cost program because they're struggling to make ends meet. 

Trudeau said while the government has funded 100,000 spaces so far and is aware of the challenges in rolling out this new national program, not enough families have access and not all provinces are moving as fast as they should. 

"I want to take a moment to talk to young moms, many of you millennials. You've grown up with so many pressures in this economy, the 2008 recession, COVID, climate change … and we want to make sure that everyone — especially moms raising kids — has the best chance to succeed and thrive," Trudeau said.

"As Canada grows, as families grow, we want to make sure more kids can access high-quality child care… That's what fairness for every generation is all about."

The prime minister also got political, accusing Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of opposing the program, despite the Official Opposition voting in support of a recently passed Liberal piece of legislation meant to enshrine in law a commitment to the Canada-wide early learning and child-care system, and the long-term funding needed to maintain it. 

Reacting to the news, NDP MP and critic for children, families, and social development Leah Gazan said the announcement was a "direct result of advocacy" by her party, care workers, unions, and women's organizations.

She also pointed the finger at the Conservatives, accusing them of trying to stall the program and push for a "for-profit private system that parents can't afford." 

Liberal pre-budget strategy

Similar to how Wednesday's rollout of renter-fairness-focused pre-budget news went, cabinet ministers are making echo announcements of the new child-care affordability measures across the country Thursday afternoon. 

This is all part of a new communications strategy the Liberals are employing in the lead up to the release of the April 16 federal budget.

Practically every day between now and when Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland releases the massive economic document, the Liberals are expected to tease out bits and pieces of the budget.

In an effort to stretch out their ability to market the measures within it, Trudeau as well as members of his cabinet will unveil new initiatives over the next two weeks, to the point that the vast majority of the budget will be public prior to budget day.

Traditionally, governments have held budget news — save for some pre-tabling leaks — for the day the document is tabled in the House of Commons post-daylong reporter and stakeholder lockup.

Kicking off this strategy on Wednesday, Trudeau issued a video across social media platforms indicating the overall theme for the 2024 budget will be "generational fairness," a message meant to speak to millennials and Generation Z.

"When I first decided to run for office, one of my biggest motivations was working to create a Canada that young people saw themselves… As prime minister, I've never lost sight of that," Trudeau said in the clip.

"You as a young Canadian are the heartbeat of our economy. You power our growth and you deserve an economy that gives you a fair shot at success. But, this moment we're all living in is throwing big challenges your way… So we're going to roll up our sleeves and work like hell. And we're going to tell you about what we're doing to fix it, over the next two weeks."

While Trudeau's 2015 election victory was credited in part to a historic surge in young people turning up at the polls, Poilievre has been chipping away at that Liberal voting bloc of those aged 43 and under, seeking to appeal to their current struggles to get ahead with his "powerful paycheques" and housing affordability arguments.

In November 2023, Trudeau tapped Max Valiquette, a marketing guru with self-described expertise in understanding younger generations, as his new executive director of communications.

"We're witnessing a different communication strategy from the government. They're implementing something they've not tried before. We're not going to have a budget day on April 16. We're going to have budget days between now and April 16," said political commentator Scott Reid in an interview on CTV News Channel.

"Frankly, this government knows that it needs to break through, it knows that it needs to connect with Canadians… Is it going to turn around the polls overnight? No. Might they get a little bit more of a hearing than they otherwise would have been? Probably." 

With files from CTV News' Vassy Kapelos and Annie Bergeron-Oliver

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