How Quebec's political parties are courting families with education promises

Free education from daycare to PhD, subsidized school lunches and a uniform school tax rate across the province are just some of promises being made in the early stages of the Quebec election campaign.

Suggestions include free schooling, subsidized lunches and a single tax rate across Quebec

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée made sandwiches during a pre-campaign event. The PQ has promised more subsidized lunches for elementary school students. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Québec Solidaire has formally unveiled one of the central promises of its election campaign: free education from when a child enters daycare until they graduate with a PhD.

Speaking to reporters in Sherbrooke on Sunday, co-spokesperson Manon Massé said the plan — which the party estimates would cost the province $2.45 billion — would help hundreds of thousands of Quebecers.

"If the old political class can find billions of dollars to build a third link for 6,000 cars between Quebec City and Lévis, I can't believe that we can't put that money toward supporting hundreds of thousands of Quebec families," she said.

Parents will save between $1,805 and $5,070 per child enrolled in public daycare services (CPEs) and $560 per year for children in elementary and high school, the party said.

"We're going to say it: that makes a huge difference in a family's budget," Massé said in a statement.

Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé (centre) said giving Quebecers free education would help hundreds of thousands of people. The plan would cost the province $2.45 billion, the party says. (CBC)

The announcement is one of several education-related promises made by Quebec's main political parties in the early days of the election campaign, which officially launched last Thursday.

The parties are looking to shore up support from families across the province in the lead-up to the Oct. 1 vote.

CAQ and Liberals trade barbs over school tax

Also this morning, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault committed to implementing a single school tax rate across the province if elected.

First unveiled several months ago, the party's plan involves setting school taxes at 10 cents per $100 in property value over a four-year period, and it would save Quebecers $700 million. ​

Speaking in Terrebonne, north of Montreal, Legault said the Liberals' system is an "injustice," and said school taxes went up by 25 per cent over the last four years in the province.

François Legault made his announcement on school taxes in Terrebonne, north of Montreal. (Mathieu Potvin/Radio-Canada)

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard hit back at Legault following the announcement.

Under Law 166, adopted in March by the Liberal government, each region has a single tax rate. Each property owner also gets an exemption on the first $25,000 on the value of their home.

That system "has reestablished a balance inside each region," Couillard said.

"It already costs $672 million to compensate school boards; we have to stay there. The $700 million that Legault wants to add won't serve schools at all."

The parties also traded barbs over their plans for public daycare in the province.

On Saturday, the CAQ said it would free up 50,000 daycare spots by making government-funded, pre-kindergarten classes available to four year olds.

"That doesn't work in practice," Couillard said on Sunday, prompting Legault to respond by saying that his critics should show initiative to better support children in the province.

"When will they take an ambitious approach for our children?" the CAQ leader said.

Meanwhile, the Liberals have pledged to boost education spending by 1.2 and 0.2 per cent, respectively, in the first two years of a new mandate.

Also on Sunday, the party pledged to expand basic dental coverage to include children between the ages of 10 and 16.

Couillard has promised that the Liberals would expand basic dental coverage to children under age 16. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

PQ pledges subsidized student lunches

On the eve of the campaign's launch last week, the Parti Québécois promised to make more subsidized lunches available to school-age children.

Under the plan, every elementary school student in Quebec would be able to order hot lunches costing between $1-$5, depending on their parents' income, the party said.

The PQ said about 250,000 children would benefit from the program, which would be phased in over four years at an annual cost of $39 million.

The party also said it plans to give parents the option of buying school supplies directly at their children's schools, in an effort to save time and energy in the busy, back-to-school crunch.

"Families want us to make their lives easier; that's what we'll do. Seriously," said party leader Jean-François Lisée, using the party's one-word campaign slogan.

PQ Leader Jean-Francois Lisée was at a campaign stop in the Montreal riding of Rosemont on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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