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East Coast premiers lobby for new deal on daycare dollars [CA]

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Author: 
Laghi, Brian
Publication Date: 
29 Oct 2005
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Two East Coast premiers are demanding that Ottawa give them the same controls over how they can use federal daycare dollars that it gave Quebec yesterday in an agreement that provides that province with flexibility not enjoyed by other provinces.

New Brunswick's Bernard Lord and Prince Edward Island's Pat Binns both called on Prime Minister Paul Martin to provide for them the same deal he inked with Quebec, which calls for the transfer of $1.25-billion in federal funds over the next five years.

"I hope that this will create an opening for us," Mr. Lord said in an interview. "If not, then the federal government will have to explain why one province can get no conditions and New Brunswick has to be dictated to by the federal government."

Prime Minister Paul Martin yesterday agreed to a so-called "asymmetrical" new daycare deal with Quebec that is more loosely structured than deals done with other provinces. Among the provinces, only New Brunswick and PEI are left to sign deals with the federal government.

Under the agreement, the federal government says Quebec could use the cash on objectives for the "well-being of families." Other provincial deals require that money be spent on child care.

Mr. Lord said yesterday that he wants something similar for his province.

Mr. Lord said he would use the money for daycare spaces, but also for parents who stay at home with their children, or for families who might want to bring caregivers into their home.

Mr. Binns said his province would prefer to put the money into wages and training, as well as strengthening support for children with special needs. PEI currently provides some daycare help for those on social assistance, but a province-wide program would be difficult to afford, Mr. Binns said.

PEI began only three years ago to fund kindergarten in the province.

However, other provinces said they were not upset with the special deal for Quebec, noting that the province already has what is considered to be the most comprehensive program in the country.

The man responsible for the program, Social Development Minister Ken Dryden, said this week that Quebec's commitment to child care needed to be respected in the deal.

Mr. Martin said the agreement marks a positive step in relations between the Quebec and Canadian governments.

"It shows that both governments can reach agreement on questions of primary importance for our citizens," he said in a prepared statement.

Other provinces, like Alberta, balked at federal strings on daycare cash, but eventually agreed to conditions that put the money in regulated care.

- reprinted from the Globe and Mail

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Entered Date: 
3 Nov 2005
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