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Hello everyone and thank you, Ahmed, for that kind introduction and for all your hard work.
I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered in Treaty 4 Territory, the lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed something that women have long known: without child care, parents—usually mothers—cannot 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. That is an economic issue.
Early learning and child care has long been a feminist issue. Canadian feminists have been fighting for universal day care for more than half a century. For more than 50 years.
COVID-19 has revealed to all of us that it is also an urgent economic issue.
In the April budget, our government committed up to $30 billion over five years, with $9.2 billion annually in permanent funding combined with previous investments, to make the long-held dream of a Canada-wide early learning and child care system a reality. Finally.
We committed to build this system in partnership with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners.
Early learning and child care is really important to me as a working mother of three. It also important to me as Deputy Prime Minister and, critically, as Finance Minister because it delivers a jobs-and-growth hat trick:
- It allows both mothers and fathers to work, increasing our labour force. That will make the economy grow and it makes our life more affordable for those young families.
- It creates good well-paid jobs for early learning educators, who are mostly women.
- And, an early learning and child care system across Canada is going to help us raise an outstanding generation of young Canadians—of children getting the best possible start in life.
A child care centre is as important to our economy—it is as much a piece of critical infrastructure—as a bridge or a road or a grain elevator.
Today, I am so delighted to announce that our government has reached a landmark agreement with the province of Saskatchewan to deliver $10 a day early learning and child care to Saskatchewan families with children under six, by the end of 2025-26. Families will see a 50 per cent reduction in fees by the end of next year. This support will be available for children in regulated child care, including home-based child care.
Our agreement also supports an early learning and child care system that is fully inclusive of children with disabilities. This centre, Hope’s Home, is a prime example of that and I am so astounded and impressed by the care you give to children with medical needs and to their families. These families know how important it is to be able to get access to affordable high-quality care for their children.
The Government of Canada will contribute close to $1.1 billion over five years to help the Province of Saskatchewan deliver this essential support for children and families.
The funding will also make child care easier to find. Within five years, Saskatchewan will have 28,000 new regulated early learning and child care spaces for children under six.
The federal funding will also support the educators who do incredible work to help our young children learn and grow.
Our government is also committed to working collaboratively with Indigenous leaders to ensure that Indigenous children have access to culturally appropriate, affordable, and high-quality early learning and child care.
I made a personal commitment to Canadians on budget day that our government would get this done. And since April, we have been working really hard to do just that.
I have to say that the remarkable speed and success with which we have been achieving early learning and child care agreements across the country is really due to the hard work and the commitment of my friend and colleague, Ahmed Hussen. Thank you so much, Ahmed, this is really historic.
And I really want to thank you, Saskatchewan Minister of Education, Dustin Duncan. I know that you and your team have worked really hard, really fast. I know there were moments when the two of you thought we would not get there. But we did.
And I want to thank all of the public servants from Saskatchewan and from the federal government, who I know have committed, probably their whole professional careers, to see this actually happen. Thank you very much.
I asked Ahmed if I could be here for this particular announcement because it is personally really important to me.
I am a Ukrainian Canadian, daughter of a Prairie farmer in Peace River, Alberta. I know that child care is important in my downtown Toronto riding, the constituency I have the privilege to be representing today. But I also know it really matters to families in Regina and in the small farming communities that are the heart of Canada’s amazing Prairies. People do not always appreciate that!
I did a town hall just before COVID-19 started, in Peace River. I wanted to hear from the farmers about what they needed.
One of the things that one of the farmers at that roundtable said—a young mother and agronomist who farms with her husband who immigrated to Canada from Sweden.
She said that it is really difficult to get early learning and child care in the Peace Country. She said: “we cannot have the kids running around the tractors and the combines; I am a part of running this farm and it is really hard.”
And so it really matters to me that we have been able to do a deal here in Saskatchewan, for families who live in Regina, and also for families who live in small rural communities across this amazing province.
Saskatchewan today, with your beautiful skies that I take such pleasure in seeing, becomes the eighth jurisdiction to take this great step forward for Canadian families and Canadian children. As Ahmed pointed out, Saskatchewan is one of several provinces that are over-performing, and you are committed to reaching the $10 a day target ahead of the federal five-year benchmark goal. So, well done!
I want to say to all Canadians that with today’s agreement, nearly half of all children in Canada under six—47 per cent to be precise—will have access, in five years or less, to early learning and child care for $10 a day. And nearly half of Canadian families will have fees for their child care reduced by 50 per cent by the end of next year.
We are really making progress across Canada. We are making progress in the Prairies. We are making progress on the Pacific coast; we are making progress on the Atlantic coast; we are making progress in the North; we are making progress in the south.
I am so delighted that thanks to people in this room, Saskatchewan families, and most importantly, Saskatchewan children, are going to be able to share in that.
It is so amazing to me what we can do when we work together to improve the lives of Canadians.
It truly is commendable what we can do, working together, to improve the lives of Canadians and of Canadian children.
I have already thanked Minister Duncan and the Saskatchewan team for working on this. I also want to offer a shout-out to my counterpart and colleague, Saskatchewan Minister of Finance, Donna Harpauer.
She and I have talked about this. I know how personally committed—as a Finance Minister, and like me, as a mother of three—she is to early learning and child care.
Minister Harpauer cannot be with us here today, but I know she is here in spirit and I want to thank her for the hard work she did to get this done.
Thank you again everyone for the hard work you did to get us here. This is really a historic announcement for Saskatchewan. It is a historic announcement for Canada.
This is an important milestone on the way to Canada’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and to Canada coming roaring back.
Thank you very much.