09/11/2015 01:35 EDT | Updated 09/11/2015 01:59 EDT

Liberals Coy On Resurrecting Paul Martin's National Child Care Program


The Liberals shared few details Thursday after suggesting the party is set to announce its own child care strategy to challenge the NDP’s plan “in the coming weeks.”

Speaking to reporters in a telephone press conference, Liberal candidates Chrystia Freeland and Stephane Dion took apart the math behind the NDP’s pledge to create one million daycare spaces across the country over eight years.

“You cannot have Tommy Douglas social programs on a Stephen Harper budget,” said Freeland, a candidate in Toronto’s new University-Rosedale riding.

Back in October, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair vowed to spend $5 billion per year to implement a national $15-a-day child care program if his party is elected into power.

Freeland and Dion hammered Mulcair over his numbers, criticizing how the NDP can continue to tout its promise, and vow to balance the books its first year in office with a looming $1-billion deficit forecast.

“The NDP won’t create anywhere close to one millions spaces, and they might not be able to make any spaces at all,” Freeland said, repeating a party line that Mulcair’s plan “just doesn’t add up.”

Dion repeated the same remarks in French.

Freeland called the NDP’s lack of consultation with provinces to pick up 40 per cent of the program’s tab a political conduit that will bring a “Rubik's Cube of challenges” for Mulcair.

The promised daycare spaces will disappear “like a puff of smoke,” she said.

But when asked if the Liberals intend to reintroduce their own national child care program — similar to the one implemented under Paul Martin’s Liberal government — both incumbent MPs were coy.

“We do have a lot more to say on daycare,” said Freeland.

She hinted at a yet-to-be-announced Liberal plan designed to “contrast with the NDP,” adding it will be “fully costed” and “implementable” and done in collaboration with provinces.

Grits take aim at new NDP recruit

The two Liberals continued their attack, bringing NDP Eglinton-Lawrence candidate Andrew Thomson into the fold.

They singled out a document he signed as a Saskatchewan cabinet minister 10 years ago.

The NDP candidate served as the province’s minister of learning and signed an early learning and child care agreement along with former Liberal prime minister Martin in 2005.

Former premier Lorne Calvert, and ex-federal social development minister Ken Dryden were also signatories.

Calling NDP critiques of the Liberal’s child care record “really outrageous,” Freeland stated, “We would already have national daycare had they not brought down the Liberal government plan.”

Earlier in the campaign, Mulcair took shots at the Liberals’ record, lambasting the party for failing to follow through on a 13-year promise to implement a national child care program.

After the Liberal press conference, the NDP fired back with a press release criticizing the party’s priorities.

“Perhaps Justin Trudeau wants to distract from the fact his friend Paul Martin chose to spend billions on lowering taxes for profitable corporations instead of investing in quality child care,” it read.

The Huffington Post Canada reached out to Thomson for comment but the NDP candidate did not respond in time for publication.

‘Start of a bright new future’

Martin’s Liberals only briefly savoured the success of its national early learning and child care program, signed by all 10 provinces, before his minority government was toppled by a non-confidence vote led by the Conservatives and seconded by the NDP in 2005.

“This is not just the end of a tired, directionless scandal-plagued government, it’s the start of a bright new future for this great country,” Stephen Harper said at the time.

The Harper-led Conservatives won the following election, scrapped Martin’s national child care plan, and replaced it with a monthly $100 universal benefit.

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In Photos: Canada Election 2015