On Thursday, March 31, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff briefly toured the Lord Roberts Preschool before announcing that his party, if elected, would create an “early learning and childcare fund of $500 million,” aimed at shrinking daycare waitlists around the country.
The fund would eventually increase in size to $1 billion.
“The most important thing that a government has to do is invest in our children,” said Ignatieff, “and you have to invest in children from the beginning.”
This, according to Ignatieff, was of paramount importance now because Canada is falling behind other Western nations when it comes to childcare. He said that provinces could start to apply to the new fund as early as this summer under a Liberal government.
The Liberal leader went on to say that this was part of his party’s overall learning strategy and related to the Learning Passport platform announced earlier in the campaign.
Ignatieff said that the main advantage to this program, when compared to programs proposed in the past, is its flexibility, being designed to start “fast and early,” addressing needs right away. In order to access the fund, provinces would apply with the intent of creating new childcare centres, expanding existing ones or training new workers.
“Provinces can come and say ‘we’ve got a great idea to expand daycare in Manitoba [ . . . ]’ and we can respond quickly to get it done. And bit by bit this is how Canada builds the ground under our feet — you do it by working with the provinces.”
He went on to say that you don’t need a big federal program weighed down by bureaucrats to solve the problems of wait times at daycares, but a “responsible and flexible fund that can respond to the needs of provinces.”
Ignatieff said that another advantage of this program was that it would encourage the provinces and the federal government to talk and share ideas on what does and doesn’t work, and how to address problems.
The federal NDP and Conservative parties were contacted for comment and had yet to reply by press time.