Quebec is putting an end to the universal fee structure for its publicly funded daycare system.
The government will now have parents pay on a sliding scale according to their household income.
The current rate of $7.30 a day per child will remain in effect, but when families prepare their annual income tax declarations, those who make more money will have to pay an additional amount.
Families with a total income of less than $55,000 will continue to pay the base amount of $7.30.
The fee will climb as high as $20 per day per child for families whose total annual income is more than $150,000.
Parents will pay only the base rate, $7.30 per day, for a third child who is in a daycare at the same time as two siblings.
Annual daycare rate hikes per child:
- Family income of $100,000: additional $835 per year
- Family income of $120,000: additional $1,456 per year
- Family income of $140,000: additional $2,130 per year
- Family income of $175,000: additional $2,678 per year
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said it's the fairest way to make sure the program survives.
“This is the true definition of social justice. Actually, I’m very proud that we’ve done this, because it would have been too easy to say, ‘Let’s abolish the program or charge $25 or $30 for everyone,’” Couillard said.
Even with the increase, daycare rates in Quebec remain by far the most affordable in Canada.
Daycare network leaders 'disappointed'
The head of Quebec’s daycare network calls the new fees “a step backward.”
“"We are so very disappointed,” said Gina Gasparini, president of Quebec’s association of non-profit subsidized daycares.
“They are forgetting to look at what the consequences are, and what this really means to people.”
Mother Jamie Benoit, who has a two-year-old in a subsidized daycare, expects she and her partner will pay more under the new sliding scale than her current daily fee of $7.30.
“It is going to be really tight, so if they put that [fee] up, one of us might have to stay home instead of working. It is not going to be worth it,” Benoit said.
Broken promise, opposition charges
The opposition is accusing Couillard of breaking an election promise.
“The premier must simply apologize,” said Parti-Québécois Leader Stephane Bédard.
“Can he admit to Quebecers, at least with a certain amount of respect, that he did not fulfil his commitment?” asked François Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec.
Couillard responded that after coming into power last spring, his government found the province’s finances to be in worse shape than expected.
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“The true nature of the finances in Quebec was not brought up. No one knew.”
The daycare fees will go up starting Jan. 1, 2016.