Alberta signs onto national child care plan with Trudeau, but other tensions remain
The agreement includes the creation of more than 40,000 new spaces and commits the federal government to spending $3.8 billion over the next five years
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called a brief truce in their war of words Monday to sign a child-care deal, but shots were fired even before the press conference announcing the deal was over.
The agreement follows the outline of agreements reached with several other provinces that call for daycare fees to be cut in half next year, and reduced to an average of $10 per day in five years. It includes the creation of more than 40,000 new spaces and commits the federal government to spending $3.8 billion over the next five years.
Alberta was among the last provinces to sign on because Kenney said he wanted a deal similar to Quebec’s arrangement with the federal government, which came with far fewer strings attached.
“They got, I understand, complete flexibility in their agreement with the federal government, which we would have preferred. But at the end of the day, this is the best deal that we could get and the option was leaving nearly $4 billion on the table,” he said, with Trudeau at his side, during an event at an Edmonton YMCA.
Kenney said Alberta did succeed in getting a deal that allows for private darycare operators, as well as not-for-profit childcare centres. More than half of current care spaces in Alberta are in privately run businesses.
“It’s not the only time where we see what appears to be a two-tier federation,” said Kenney.
“The basic aspiration of Albertans is to be treated equally, to have the same powers that Quebec exercises and the same treatment from the federal government, which includes unconditional funding.”
Trudeau rejected Kenney’s suggestion that Quebec got a sweetheart deal. He said every province is being treated differently, because every province has different circumstances. Quebec in particular, already has the system the Liberals are trying to create across the country.
“Quebec already has $10 a child care right across the province, indeed it’s $8.50, so it makes no sense for us to impose conditions that they have already surpassed,” Trudeau said.
“If Alberta already had child care at $8 a day across the province, we would have had an approach similar to Quebec, so let’s not create constitutional conventions out of this.”
Alberta held a referendum last month in whichvoters called on the federal government to eliminate equalization from the Constitution. Kenney has used the results as an argument for an overall of the system.
The equalization debate is only one of several sore points between the federal government and Alberta. The province also elected Senators during last month’s elections, but it is unclear if Trudeau will appoint any of the winners to the red chamber.