Ottawa signals plans to create Canada-wide child care system...

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland today announced the first steps in a multi-year plan to build a Canada-wide child care system to reduce costs for families and encourage more women with kids to join the workforce.

To pay for this proposed program — and to collect more revenue to cover a ballooning budget deficit — Freeland also unveiled the government's plan to levy sales taxes on digital companies.

Freeland said the government will create a new federal secretariat on early learning and child care that will work with the provinces and territories to design a new national system modelled on the one already in place in Quebec, where parents have access to child care services for less than $10 a day.

"Just as Saskatchewan once showed Canada the way on health care and British Columbia showed Canada the way on pricing pollution, Quebec can show us the way on child care," the fall economic statement reads.

The finance minister said the next federal budget — expected sometime in spring 2021 — will present a more concrete plan on how Ottawa will provide "affordable, accessible, inclusive and high-quality child care from coast to coast to coast." The federal government is committing $20 million now to begin the work of crafting its new "child care vision."

The government says the need for such a national system is obvious now, given how the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the precariousness of work for many women.

Government data show that more women than men have been forced to stay home from their jobs to care for their kids during this pandemic-induced recession, because of mounting child care costs and a lack of available spaces.

"COVID-19 has caused a she-cession, rolling back many of the hard-won gains women have worked for over past decades," the economic statement reads, using a term coined to describe the dramatic decline in the number working women this year.

"Canada cannot be competitive until all Canadian women have access to affordable child care."

The fall economic statement tabled by Freeland includes $70-100 billion in unspecified fiscal stimulus spending over the next three years, earmarked for jump-starting an economy hammered by lockdowns. The money to pay for a national child care plan could be drawn from those funds.

While the details have yet to be worked out, the federal government will send more than $400 million to the provinces and territories starting in the next fiscal year to begin recruiting more early child care educators ahead of a possible surge in new spaces.

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