The federal government’s plan to invest roughly $30 billion in early learning and child-care services over the next five years could lead to great things for Quebec’s subsidized daycare network, but the rest of the proposed budget falls short of impressing Premier François Legault.
“For months, the provinces and territories have unanimously asked the federal government to increase health funding on a recurring and unconditional basis,” Legault wrote on Twitter Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his chance but once again “refused to listen to our demands,” he said.
Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard welcomes several aspects of the federal budget, including the emergency wage subsidy, commercial rent assistance and the investment in child-care services.
However, healthcare funding needs a boost, Girard said.
“We deplore the absence of a permanent increase in health funding to the level of 35 per cent of costs as unanimously requested by the provinces and territories,” he said on Twitter.
“The federal government just missed a unique opportunity for a long-term partnership in health.”
Trudeau said on Monday that the federal government will keep its spending focused on emergency aid and won’t talk about long-term health care funding until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
He said Ottawa needs to keep supporting those hit hard financially by the pandemic, sending billions in aid to businesses and individuals, as well as to the provinces.
Ça fait des mois que les provinces et territoires font la demande unanime au fédéral d’augmenter les transferts en santé de façon récurrente & sans condition. <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> avait la chance de faire sa juste part, mais a encore une fois refusé d’écouter nos demandes. <a href=”https://t.co/P3QkuLH6wN”>https://t.co/P3QkuLH6wN</a>
Still, not everybody is disappointed in the federal budget.
Marie-Claude Lemieux, spokesperson for the Quebec association of daycares, said the province may be able to make large strides toward eliminating the long waiting lists to get into subsidized daycare programs.
Quebec has had a subsidized daycare network since 1997, but it’s not without its issues and those issues have led the network away from its original vision of free access to high quality, early childhood education, Lemieux explained.
Nowadays there are private daycares, subsidized for-profit daycares and subsidized non-profit daycares, she said.
At this point, it is too early to know how much money Quebec will receive to begin reviving that 25-year-old vision, Lemieux said, but the network is in place and is ready to be developed.
“This money that is falling onto Quebec’s lap is a ticket to finally complete the network, give a high-quality space in a CPE to all those children who are on the waiting list,” she said.
The province could even reach out to all those who are not on a waiting list to ensure they get a spot — completing Quebec’s “trailblazing vision” it began developing 25 years ago, Lemieux said.
“I think Quebec has all the tools it needs to remain the leader and become the only state in North America to offer this all universal, low-cost, high-quality program,” said Lemieux