Better for Our Families and Our Children: Early Learning and Child Care in Budget 2017

Speech

Good morning. I want to start by thanking our hosts, the Toronto Central YMCA. What a warm and welcoming place. The YMCA is the single largest child-care provider in Canada and a major partner in ensuring that children get the care they need—and I applaud them for it.  

I would also like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee , the Métis and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

Today I want to talk about early learning and child care. It is fitting that we are here in Toronto, because parents in Toronto pay the highest costs in the country for licensed child care.

There are too few spots, and they often cost too much. This is bad for families in the middle class and with lower incomes, and it is bad for our economy. 

Let’s be honest: when child care is not available, mothers usually bear the greatest burden. When we take gender equality seriously, we must also take child care seriously.

For parents who want to work outside the home, quality child care is both a concern and a need. Yet only one in four children in Canada has access to licensed child care.

For many parents, the joy of a new baby is accompanied by a frantic hunt for affordable and quality child care.

For many parents, child care costs as much as housing, and the only child care that is available and affordable is far from home.

For many parents, the absurd reality is that they cannot afford to work, so careers get put on hold.  

We can do better, and we must do better.

I am proud to say that my government is investing $7.5 billion more in early learning and child care over the next 11 years. We look forward to working with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners in making sure that this renewed long-term leadership of the Canadian government will make a significant impact in the lives of Canadian families and children. 

Federal funding could help create up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces over the next three years for low- and modest-income families.

As the federal minister in charge of making child care more affordable in this country—and as a father of three—I can tell you that any day that I get to talk about the importance of investing more in our kids and families is a good day.

The evidence is clear that quality early learning and child care has a positive impact on child development, particularly for vulnerable children. 

To quote the great Frederick Douglass, a heroic American from the nineteenth century: “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults]”. 

Beyond the main investment in more early learning and child care spots, I want to highlight three commitments:

First, we are investing $100 million in early learning and child care innovation, so that we can find ways to get the most bang for each buck, to best improve access and outcomes. We will want to hear from families, partners and stakeholders about what is working and what can work better. 

Second, we are investing $95 million in improving data and research on child care. We still need to know more about what child care actually looks like in Canada, in order to improve it. Overall, there is a significant data and knowledge gap that we need to close. Better data makes better policy. This will also provide significant opportunities for a broad partnership with stakeholders and other governments. 

Finally, we will continue to work with Indigenous partners to develop a distinct Indigenous early learning and child care framework that reflects the unique needs and priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Metis families. We have already begun engaging with national Indigenous partners on what early learning and child care could look like and we look forward to continuing that conversation.

Now, to conclude, I’d like put our investment in child care in a broader context. Our government’s number one priority is supporting the middle class and the people working hard to join it. The reasons are fundamental: every single Canadian deserves a real and fair chance to succeed, and the economy prospers when our middle class prospers.

I am proud of our record thus far on helping families. Let me give a few examples:

The centerpiece is the Canada Child Benefit, to provide more support more families with children. As of July of last year, in the city of Toronto, over 220,000 families received the new Canada Child Benefit. This has meant an average of $200 more a month for parents, lifting 40 percent of the children currently living in poverty. 

We also cut taxes for the middle class, while asking for a bit more from the richest 1 percent of the population. 

In Budget 2017, we also just announced two important changes to give more flexibility to parents claiming parental benefits and mothers claiming maternity benefits. Families will now have the option of claiming parental benefits over 18 months instead of 12. And expectant mothers will be able to claim their maternity benefits a month earlier in their pregnancies. 

With that, I want to thank you for your time, and I’ll now take your questions. 


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