Candidates for Kootenay-Columbia from left: Bill Green (Green Party)

Election 2015: Candidates discuss national childcare

Candidates from Kootenay-Columbia debated in Sparwood earlier this month and one of the topics they tackled was national childcare.

At a recent debate in Sparwood, candidates for Kootenay-Columbia were asked a question from the public about what their party plans to do about the state of childcare in Canada.

Liberal candidate Don Johnston said back when Paul Martin was prime minister, there was already a national daycare strategy in place, along with an agreement signed by all provinces.

“Everyone was on board with a very comprehensive scheme to provide quality daycare across this country,” Johnston told the crowd on Oct. 5.

If the Liberals win the election, Johnston said his party would once again start that process, but tweak it a bit.

“It would be a daycare and early childhood learning national program to look at all of the various variables from province to province,” he said, adding it is important to work with the provinces, as daycare programs fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces.

He also said there’s opportunity for the federal government to play a leadership role in the process.

“So, it’s kind of a three-pronged approach of identifying the needs through working cooperatively, putting in mechanisms that bring some sort of equality of situations across the country and understanding that it will also mean an investment of real money and real infrastructure.”

Bill Green also brought up the national childcare program from 2005 which was signed in Kelowna.

“The Green Party thinks that’s the start,” Green said. “To go back there, invigorate that and make it happen.”

There needs to be cooperation between the federal government and the provinces, he said, adding the Green Party proposes a council of Canadian governments that meets regularly and includes the provinces, federal government, local governments and First Nations.

“Elizabeth May is an incredibly good leader and is all about cooperation and making cooperation work better across this country.”

Green said his party plans to invest $500 million (increasing that to one billion dollars) per year in daycare and early childhood education, adding that his party thinks that workplace-based childcare is an important part of the solution to childcare in Canada.

Conservative candidate and incumbent MP David Wilks brought up the fact the Harper government brought in a universal childcare benefit last year, which provides $160 per month for newborn to seven-year-olds, and $100 per month for seven to 17-year-olds.

Because childcare is a provincial jurisdiction, it is difficult for the federal government to interject with that legislation, Wilks said.

“I believe the best thing is to put the money in the hands of the parents and let them decide how they so choose to deal with it.”

NDP candidate Wayne Stetski said his party is the only party looking to implement a national childcare program.

Stetski said parents are paying upwards of $1,000 each month for childcare, something he called “unsustainable”.

“We’re going to create 370,000 new, affordable childcare spaces in the next four years,” he said, adding the NDP will deliver 60,000 of those within the first year.

“We’ll have to do that through consulting with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities but they’ve already expressed interest in doing so.”

Stetski brought up the fact Quebec has $7 per day childcare; something that not only benefits families, but also benefits the economy.

For every dollar invested in childcare in Quebec, it has a two dollar return into the economy, because it put 70,000 women back to work,” he said.

“And, of course, you can then get tax money off the people going back to work. We’re going to keep the Conservatives’ universal childcare benefit because the NDP believes in helping families, so we’re going to do both.”

The Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia will be decided on Election Day, Oct. 19.