Layton, Dion propose rival plans for boosting child-care spaces

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion announced rival child-care proposals on Wednesday as part of a move toward a national daycare program.
NDP Leader Jack Layton visits children at the East End Children's Centre during a campaign stop in Toronto on Wednesday. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))
NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion announced rival child-care proposals on Wednesday as part of a move toward a national daycare program.

Speaking in Kitchener, Ont., alongside former party leadership rivals Bob Rae and Ken Dryden, Dion said the Liberals would spend $1.25 billion a year to create 165,000 child-care spaces across the country.

Dion accused Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of breaking a previous election promise to create 125,000 new child-care spaces.

He also pledged to renegotiate early-learning and child-care agreements reached between previous Liberal governments and the provinces that were scrapped by the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Layton pledged to spend $1.4 billion to create 150,000 daycare spaces in the first year if his party is elected to government.

The Tories have cited their $100-per-month child benefit and GST cuts as measures that give Canadian families the ability to afford the child-care method of their choice.

But Dion said many parents face a wait time of up to two years to get their children into daycare programs.

"How can they choose if there is no space?" Dion said.  

Earlier in the day at a Toronto daycare facility, Layton said more money and spaces would be created in future years of the NDP program as funding permits. But he offered no final cost estimate for his campaign promise.

Layton said new child-care spaces need to be created immediately, as more Canadian families struggle to find affordable and quality care.

"You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your child is going to be safe or get good quality care, or whether you will be able to pay the bill at the end of the month," Layton said alongside his wife, New Democratic MP Olivia Chow.

Layton said the program would be on top of the existing $100-per-month child benefit, most of which he said is clawed back through taxes and lost benefits.

The election takes place Oct. 14.