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MPP Gilles Bisson is accusing the provincial Liberals of dragging their feet on doing their part to establish a national child care program.
Bisson (NDP -- Timmins-James Bay) criticized the government's Best Start Plan, a program aimed at four- and five-year-olds rather than including those up to 12.
"During the last election the Liberals said they'd put in a child care policy up to age 12," Bisson said. "And the federal government transferred $300-million-plus for it, but what's happened is the (provincial) government's announced a program for four- and five-year-olds.
"Well, you and I both know childhood doesn't stop at 5."
With another $400 million up for grabs when the province shows its progress is meeting with federal policy, Bisson said the government's commitment -- and its effort to secure the additional funding -- has been lacking.
He pointed to the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care's recent criticism of the Best Start Plan, which the lobby group lambasted in an April 5 report as being unwieldy and incomplete.
"They were quite critical in their report," Bisson said.
But Andrew Weir, a spokesman for Ministry of Children and Youth Services minister Marie Bountrogianni, said the provincial plan doesn't constitute a broken promise.
The decision to begin with a program for children aged 4-5 means those ages are the government's first priority, but not the only one, he said.
"In the initial years we've targeted 4-5-year-olds because that's typically where children attend kindergarten and junior kindergarten," he said. "So we want to ensure a smooth transition into school for them.
Best Start is set to expand in stages, Weir said, because Ontario is below the national standard for child care and needs time to catch up, "rather than do a little bit of everything all at once."
- reprinted from Daily Press (Timmins)