VANCOUVER — NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has stacked another building block in his party's universal child-care platform, promising to create 110,000 daycare spaces in British Columbia, where parents pay some of the highest fees in the country.
He said his plan will make it easier for families in a province where two out of three children don't have access to regulated child care.
"I've spoken to mothers forced to choose between their career and their children," Mulcair said Thursday, during a campaign stop in the riding of Vancouver Granville.
"It goes without saying that it's women, first and foremost, that have to make that type of sacrifice."
Tiny children giggled and played with colourful toys or hugged their parents' legs as Mulcair re-iterated his plan to create one million child-care spots at $15 per day.
He was asked if he could guarantee a spot for every Canadian child: "That's the goal."
The New Democrats first unveiled the policy plank last fall.
In details released with Thursday's announcement, the party said more than 50,000 spots would be made available in Vancouver alone.
It said families in the city pay monthly fees on average of $1,215 for one infant, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. A comparable spot in Quebec can cost as low as $152 each month.
Mulcair said he has spoken to boards of trade and chambers of commerce across the country, including the Surrey Board of Trade, about workers' needs.
"They realize that in helping families get affordable quality childcare, that they as employers are also being given help," he said.
He said the lack of reliable child care is estimated to cost B.C. businesses more than $600 million per year, again citing the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Grandmother Alicia Matas listened to the announcement while watching her two grandchildren, boys ages two and four, jump in a bouncy castle set up behind Mulcair.
She said afterwards the provision of more child-care spots "would make a difference, for sure."
Environmental protesters disrupt rally
Later in the evening, Mulcair held a rally of close to 1,000 NDP supporters in Winnipeg. His stump speech was interrupted by environmental protesters chanting "Stop Energy East," referring to the proposed pipeline that would carry one million barrels of oil daily from Alberta to the East Coast.
Mulcair joked that, as the eldest of 10 children, he knew how to block out noise and speak over people. He later grew visibly frustrated by the heckling and chided the protesters for trying to drown out his message.
"Listen, I'm more than willing to put up with your screaming but I'm talking about First Nations," he said to loud cheers from supporters. "Can you show a little bit of respect please?"
Protester Clayton Thomas-Muller said people are frustrated with Mulcair's refusal to condemn the pipeline.
"The oil lobby in this country has incredible power," he said. "We want answers from leaders like Mulcair."
With files from Chinta Puxley in Winnipeg
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