QUEBEC - Politicians, daycares and unions in Quebec are denouncing the possibility the governing Liberals will do away with the province's universal daycare fee.
Philippe Couillard's Liberal government is trying to find ways to save billions of dollars in expenses in order to post a balanced budget in 2015-16.
In his June budget, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao announced that the daily daycare fee of $7 would be increased to $7.30 on Oct. 1 and then indexed according to the rate of growth in the cost of the program.
The program was first introduced by the Parti Quebecois in the late 1990s when the daily fee was fixed at $5.
On Thursday, Montreal La Presse reported that one possibility being considered by the Liberals is a change to the current same-price-for-all scenario that is the norm in provincially run daycare centres.
The new proposal would see the daycare rate pegged to family income.
Agnes Maltais, a Parti Quebecois member of the legislature, said such a move would be a direct attack against the middle class.
"They (the Liberals) promised to not increase the fees," she said, adding that such a system would result in an administrative nightmare.
"You'll see what a mess it will be to run."
She called any move in that direction a "broken promise."
Francoise David, a member of the legislature for Quebec solidaire, said moving toward a sliding scale based on income would be "unfair and irresponsible" because the government would just be using taxpayers' money to eliminate the deficit.
Francois Bonnardel of the Coalition for Quebec's Future dismissed the proposal as nothing more than a "disguised tax."
"Quebecers have paid enough" in various taxes, he said.
Treasury Board president Martin Coiteux did not want to say Thursday whether doing away with universal fee is being considered. He said no decision has been made on changes to the daycare program or to any other government programs.
Louis Senecal, director-general of a Quebec association that represents some daycare centres, said such a scenario would be catastrophic.
He warned it would "certainly" result in a drop in Quebec's birthrate and lead to more women staying at home.
"The government doesn't have a mandate from the population to go ahead with this," Senecal said in a telephone interview.
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