Liberal apologizes for saying Harper day-care bucks may buy beer, popcorn

Paul Martin adviser apologizes after suggesting Conservative day-care money could be frittered away on beer and popcorn.

A top aide to Liberal Leader Paul Martin apologized on Sunday shortly after suggesting on national television that Canadians might spend child-care money on beer and popcorn.

Scott Reid, Martin's director of communications, was attacking a Conservative plan to give families of young children $1,200 a year for child care.

"Don't give people 25 bucks a week to blow on beer and popcorn," Reid said during a panel discussion on CBC News: Sunday. "Give them child-care spaces that work. Stephen Harper's plan has nothing to do with child care."

The Conservative on the panel called the comment "an insult," and said it proves that the Liberals don't trust families to make their own choices about what's best for their children.

Reid quickly issued an apology.

"It was dumb," he said. "No way around it. I regret it."

Meanwhile, when asked about Reid's comment at a campaign stop in Beamsville, Ont., Martin said: "There's no doubt in my mind that parents are going to use (the money) for the benefit of their families."

"They're going to use that money in a way that I'm sure is responsible," he told the Canadian Press. "Let there be no doubt about that."

Still, there is nothing in the Conservative proposal that would force parents to spend the money on child care, a spokesperson told CBC News Online on Sunday.

While campaigning for the Jan. 23 election, the Liberals have focused on creating more spaces in child care. In the last campaign in 2004, they promised to spend $5 billion to create 250,000 licensed child-care spaces by 2009.

The Conservatives will give money to parents and set aside $250 million a year for tax credits to create more spaces – 125,000 over five years, Harper has said.

The Liberals said that plan was inadequate.

Where the leaders are

The NDP's Jack Layton on Sunday signed the Workers' Bill of Rights, a declaration that supports the right of workers to join unions.

Martin is campaigning in Ontario, Harper has no events scheduled, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe is campaigning in eastern Quebec and Green party Leader Jim Harris is in Edmonton.