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Child care funding heads agenda as federal, provincial ministers meet [CA]

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Brown, Jim
Publication Date: 
29 May 2006

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Conservative efforts to back out of child-care funding deals with the provinces were at the top of the agenda as provincial social service ministers gathered Monday for a meeting with their federal counterpart.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories want to axe a commitment by the previous Liberal government to transfer $5 billion to the provinces over five years to create new day-care spaces.

The Tories are replacing that approach with $100-a-month federal cheques to be paid directly to parents of children aged under six.

Ottawa also says it plans $250 million worth of new tax breaks and grants for business and community groups, and estimates that will eventually create 125,000 new day-care spaces cross the country.

Critics are skeptical of the claim.

Mary Anne Chambers, the Ontario minister for children and youth, said tax incentives have been tried at the provincial level and haven't worked.

``They won't create any (spaces),'' Chambers said during a break in the meeting.

``It's really important to understand that you don't just create a space... you have to provide ongoing, sustainable funding for these spaces.''

The Tory move has met vociferous opposition from lobby groups that have long campaigned for a national day-care strategy.

"We have good agreements in place," said Monica Lysack, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. "To tear them up and start all over again sets us back decades.''

She acknowledged the federal Tories have so far been adamant in refusing to change their plans, but insisted there's still a chance of convincing them.

"We hope there will be an evolution in their thinking and they will be
respectful of the provinces," she said.

Lysack made her point by arriving at the conference with a number of parents and pre-school children in tow.

Three provincial ministers Chambers, Deb Higgins of Saskatchewan and Christine Melnick of Manitoba took time out from their deliberations to chat with them.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star