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Child-care plan announcement coming from NDP today

10/14/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 12/13/2014 05:59 EST
The NDP is putting more of its election cards on the table starting today.

In a bid to attract attention and get Canadians looking at policy more than a year before the next election, the Official Opposition will put forward its child-care plan at a non-profit daycare in Ottawa.

The key word of the announcement: affordability.

In recent weeks, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has suggested his plan will be broadly based on the low-fee Quebec daycare model. That program currently costs parents $7 a day.

Sources say the NDP model will not include a specific number, but will require provinces who administer the program to commit to keeping fees low.

The NDP's proposal will be fully costed.

Parallel announcements will be made by NDP MPs and candidates in cities across the country, including Regina and Thunder Bay.

Mulcair will also go on a national tour to sell the policy, travelling to Toronto, Halifax and Charlottetown.

Quebec model shows surge in daycare use

Unveiling a key plank of his election platform will undoubtedly open Mulcair to criticism from his opponents, particularly because the cost of the overall program is expected to be high.

Part of that will likely be defended by Pierre Fortin, an economics professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, who will be on hand to answer questions. Fortin has done extensive research on how Quebec's child-care program affects the work force.

In a study from 2012, Fortin and his colleagues concluded that after the low-cost daycare program was launched in 1997, originally at $5 a day, the rates of children in daycare exploded.

Between 1998 and 2008 the percentage of children in child care grew to 43 per cent from 16 per cent. There was an equally large increase in the number of Quebec women who entered the work force. Fortin suggests that increase in turn had a direct impact on gross domestic product, meaning the cost of the program can be offset by more money in government coffers through increased income taxes.

But for all the uptake in the Quebec program there are questions about sustainability. In fact, the Quebec Liberal government recently increased the daily rate slightly and hinted the province may move to a sliding scale.

A Liberal plan under then prime minister Paul Martin for a national child-care program was set to cost $5 billion over five years in 2006.

Ironically it was the NDP who helped bring down that Liberal government, leading Conservatives to power. The Conservatives scrapped the plan and chose to offer parents a universal child-care benefit of $100 a month instead.

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