Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to highlight the Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with British Columbia

Speech

July 27, 2021 - Burnaby, British Columbia - Department of Finance Canada

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Thank you very much Terry for your kind introduction and for hosting me here in Burnaby. I would also like to thank my colleagues Randy, Sukh, and Ken who invited me to their Surrey community earlier today.

It is so good to be here in B.C. and to hear directly from early learning and child care educators, from families and children, and from business leaders about how the pandemic has affected them and what are the most important things we need to do to ensure that we have a strong and resilient economic recovery.

I would like to start by acknowledging that we are here today on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Tsleil Waututh, the Musqueam, and the Squamish Nations.

I would like to take a minute to address the emergency that British Columbians and Canadians are facing.

There are currently around 250 wildfires burning in this beautiful province. Many communities are under evacuation order.

And the smoke from these fires has blanketed much of Western Canada. I know the air quality has been bad and that many people have faced health challenges as a result.

I will be meeting with firefighters and their families later this afternoon to hear from them first hand. I think we all know they are real heroes.

The Canadian Armed Forces have sent air assets and personnel to help respond to this emergency, including air lifting first responders and equipment.

We have committed—alongside our colleagues from the province of British Columbia—to matching every dollar donated to the Red Cross B.C. Wildfire Appeal Fund between July 3 and August 2.

What that means is that every dollar a Canadian donates becomes $3. This money will support a range of emergency services and ensure the Red Cross is able to support Canadians who have had to flee from their homes. A Team Canada approach is absolutely necessary whenever we face great challenges. I think the pandemic has reminded us of that once again.

We have to do everything we can to make sure that our recovery from the COVID-19 recession leaves no one behind, to make sure that our economic policies heal the wounds of COVID-19.

As we heard from Terry, COVID-19 has exposed something that women have known for a long time: Without child care, parents—usually mothers—can’t work. The closing of schools and child care centres drove women’s participation in the labour force down to its lowest level in over two decades.

Early learning and child care has long been a feminist issue. COVID-19 has shown us it is an urgent economic issue as well.

In our recent budget, we committed up to $30 billion over five years, with $9.2 billion in permanent funding, to make this long-held dream a reality. We committed to work with provinces like our friends in B.C. and territories to build Canada-wide early learning and child care systems.

And we committed to building a pan-Canadian system that gives all young families access to affordable, inclusive, flexible and crucially high-quality care.

Early learning and child care is an economic policy that delivers a jobs-and-growth hat trick:

  • By allowing both mothers and fathers to work, it increases our labour force and boosts our economic growth;
  • It creates good jobs for mostly women early learning and child care educators; and
  • It helps us to raise a generation of better educated, better prepared, smarter Canadian children.

This morning, I was at the Surrey Board of Trade to speak with business leaders who have long understood this. They have been pioneers and they advocated for the importance from a business perspective of investing in early learning and child care.

They understand child care is essential social infrastructure needed to drive jobs and growth. Just as we have roads to transport goods and power grids to run factories, we need child care to support our workforce and help all Canadians reach their full potential.

My colleague Terry’s daughter is educated and cared for here. I can see why Terry trusts the amazing educators here with the most precious person in his life, his daughter. If my children were young enough and I lived here, I would love for my children to go here. I do also want to say it has been nice to talk to the leaders of Simon Fraser University.

They confirmed for me something I have heard from other university leaders across the country, which is that having great high-quality, affordable early learning and child care helps us recruit the best people to come live and work in Canada, including at great universities like Simon Fraser.

As part of this agreement, British Columbians will see a 50 per cent reduction in average parent fees for children under six in regulated child care by the end of next year.

And our governments will work together to achieve an average $10 a day fee for all regulated child care spaces for children under six by the end of the five-year agreement.

We are also working with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to ensure Indigenous children will have access to affordable, high-quality, and culturally appropriate early learning and child care.

I am so glad to have had the chance to meet with business leaders, university leaders, early learning and child care educators, with a few wonderful children today, who understand the importance of this initiative.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my colleague, Ahmed Hussen, who has been driving this from the federal government side with someone he speaks of very highly but who I have only had the chance to meet today for the first time: his B.C. counterpart, Katrina Chen.

And of course my B.C. counterpart with whom I have spoken many times, but met in person today for the first time: Selina Robinson. Her personal commitment to making this happen was absolutely essential to concluding our essential agreement with the province of B.C.

Let’s keep working together to make sure B.C. continues to be a leader in early learning and child care and to make sure that every child in this amazing province continues to have the best start in life.

Thank you very much.

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