Atkinson Centre, April 29, 2021
Budget 2021 features the Federal government’s plan for the development of a Canada-wide early learning and child care program featuring the principles of equitable access, quality and affordability. It is not a policy document –that will come later. Specific details in the Budget, along with post-budget statements from Employment and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, point to a transformation of existing services to a system similar to public education or health care.
The federal government is using its spending powers to incent provinces and territories to participate. Budget 2021 commits to new investments totaling $30 billion over the next five years, including $1.4 billion for Indigenous families. After that an annual commitment to $9.2 billion, with $385 million ongoing for Indigenous programs, raises the federal contribution to early learning and child care to the equivalent of what provinces and territories now spend.Budget 2021 signals a bias for non-profit/public delivery and clearly directs funding to program operations to support quality and access and to reduce fees, rather than payments to parents. It moves away from the current market approach to a view of early learning and child care as a public good.