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Trudeau announces funding for new child care spaces during visit to southwestern Ont.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a number of federal ministers were in St. Thomas Monday to announce more than $200 million for child care spaces in Ontario.

The stop at the YMCA Station View Child Care Centre comes as the national child care program continues to face unexpected challenges.

A modest demonstration outside the centre included staff from the nearby St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank. Demonstrators were hoping to get a face-to-face with the prime minister to explain how some of their clients have to choose between paying for child care and buying groceries.

“A lot of working people are doing that now, they’re paying out hundreds of dollars even per day in daycare,” explained Sarah Coleman, food bank manager of operations.

“It’s overwhelming and it’s heartbreaking for both us,” added Karen McDade, food bank manager of administrations. “We’re out here and we were trying to say hello to our wonderful prime minister.”

They said a friendly wave from the PM was the most they received, with the child care centre surrounded by the prime minister’s security and local police.

Inside the centre Trudeau discussed several economic issues, including the future Volkswagen EV battery plant being built in the Railway City. But his main purpose was to talk about the Liberals’ national child care program, and connecting the new plant to how working families will need child care.

Trudeau was joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jenna Sudds, and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marcie Ien.

They were on hand to announce more than $201 million in funding to create child care spaces and support inclusive child care services in Ontario.

It’s part of a goal to create 86,000 new child care spaces by 2026.

Karen McDade and Sarah Coleman from the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank demonstrate outside the prime minister’s visit to a child care centre in St. Thomas, Ont. on May 13, 2024. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)“I want to pause for a second to thank educators who work so hard every day, just like the ones I’m seeing here at the Station View YMCA Child Care Centre,” remarked Trudeau. “Your jobs are not easy and you’re there for our kids’ day in and day out. We want you to know that we’re here for you.”

The announcement comes as the federal government continues to promote its national child care program, with $10 per day child care at the forefront.

Some providers have said the program has left them with higher than expected operating costs, in addition to a shortage of early childhood educators, and long wait lists for spaces.

The federal Conservatives wasted no time in condemning Monday’s announcement, unloading a litany of statistics showing continued concern over child care availability and cost.

According to Sebastian Skamski, director of media relations for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, “the prime minister is holding yet another one of his photo ops while turning his back on Canadians.”

Citing Statistics Canada, the Conservative communique said, “out of families using child care, the percentage who reported difficulty finding that care rose significantly to 46.4 per cent in 2023 from 36.4 per cent in 2019.”

The federal ministers attending the announcement said it’s the Conservatives who are blocking families from attaining affordable child care by not supporting the federal budget.

“The Conservatives continue to oppose the good work that we are putting forward to support Canadian families,” said Sudds.

“Thanks to the government’s historic investment in child care more women are working more than ever,” added Ien.

Monday’s announcement is meant to target young families, especially millennial parents. It includes a child care expansion loan program, student loan forgiveness for rural and remote early learning educators, increasing training for early childhood educators, and improved access for military families.

“Affordable child care means more parents, especially moms, don’t have to choose between their family and their career,” said Trudeau. 

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