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Ujjal Dosanjh, the Premier of British Columbia, has promised voters a $400-million childcare plan if the NDP is returned to power in a spring election.
The program, which would save B.C. families up to $6,000 a year per child, would start next year and be fully operational by 2004.
There are already 67,000 licensed childcare spaces in B.C., but the new program calls for that to be expanded to 85,000 spaces. The subsidies would result in parents paying no more than $14 per day per child.
The current program covers children from Grade 1 to age 12 enrolled in licensed group centres offering before- and after-school child care. The program would be expanded to include infants and children up to five years old.
Mr. Dosanjh, who was elected Premier by the NDP last year after Glen Clark resigned under police investigation, must call an election no later than June.
Polls have been indicating a wipeout for the NDP, giving it just 17% support compared with the Liberal party's 51% under the leadership of Gordon Campbell.
In recent appearances, Mr. Dosanjh has promised victory, describing himself as "the comeback kid of the year 2001."
"Who knows, there might be a surprise," he said. "I recognize that we lost some years ago the trust of British Columbians. I'm trying hard to re-earn that trust," Mr. Dosanjh said yesterday.
Katherin Whittred, the B.C. Liberal childcare critic, said Mr. Dosanjh is using children as an election ploy and that everyone can read the polls.
"I think the odds on this plan are probably very remote," Ms. Whittred said.
-Reprinted from The National Post