Ontario Premier Doug Ford wants municipalities to wait for his government to strike a deal with Ottawa on child care instead of trying to start their own negotiations, saying they might undermine provincial efforts.
“I’m pleading with the municipalities: don’t divide and try to conquer. It just doesn’t work. Let’s stay united as a province,” Ford said after an unrelated announcement Wednesday.
“I’m not in favour of making side deals with the federal government with a municipality. That’s just not right for the people of Ontario.”
The comments come as some city councils have started formally considering asking Ottawa to work with them on $10-per-day child care as federal-provincial talks continue.
Toronto city council was to consider a motion on the topic this week, Niagara Regional council has asked staff to investigate their options and Hamilton councillors are set to discuss it later this month.
The regions have stressed the particular impact a lack of affordable child care has on women, who have been more affected by employment changes during the pandemic, according to Statistics Canada research from earlier this year.
The federal Liberal government has inked deals with seven provinces and one territory on its $30-billion, five-year child care plan, which promises to cut child-care prices to an average of $10 per day across the country.
But Ontario, home to more than one-third of the Canadian population, has yet to sign on.
In a statement Wednesday, NDP child care critic Bhutila Karpoche said she was “appalled” that Ford criticized municipalities where families are in need of child care.
“Instead of taking shots at local governments for doing the right thing, Doug Ford should do his job and secure an affordable child care deal with the federal government for Ontario now,” she said.
“If other provinces can manage it, there’s no reason for Ontarians to still be waiting.”
Asked for his position Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said it is “highly preferable” to strike a deal involving the whole province, adding many who work in Toronto live outside the city.
Tory suggested he would like to see a deal made before the Christmas holidays, which he said would be a great gift to parents.
A spokeswoman for Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said Tuesday that the federal government is “optimistic” about a deal with the remaining jurisdictions.
Mikaela Harrison also said the government is committed to working with provinces and territories on the program because they are responsible for child care.