Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday afternoon’s COVID-19 update (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

If cornered, will the Kenney Government flat out say no to federal funds for child care? 

It sure looks like it. 

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But first, as is ever the case when the United Conservative Party’s lizard brain confronts a potentially popular publicly funded program, Premier Jason Kenney will rush with his loyal partisans to their favourite barricade: culture war. 

UCP culture warriors were quick to respond when they learned the Trudeau Government’s federal budget Monday included a plan to spend $30 billion over the next five years on a national child care program. 

A sage observer of the recent history of Liberal governments in Ottawa might wonder if, like electoral reform, the child care program will never see the light of day once Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is snugly re-elected in the nation’s capital.

Still, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised Monday that her goal was to see parents with kids in child care paying only $10 a day within five years, and them’s fightin’ words from the perspective of Mr. Kenney and the UCP. They’ve just finished killing off the previous Alberta NDP government’s $25-a-day child care program, after all. So there’s no way they’re about to take the chance this might only be another meaningless Liberal promise!

UCP talking heads have been all over the place feigning sympathy with parents who face extortionate child care fees but decrying publicly funded child care with a battery of culture-war dog whistles. 

“When it comes to child care subsidies, we believe that any program should respect the choices that parents make for what’s best for their own families,” said Premier Kenney, responding to a reporter’s question at yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

“Our first read of the federal policy announced yesterday is that it is only for a kind of cookie-cutter, nine-to-five, urban, government- and union-run institutional daycare option,” he continued, throwing in enough whistles to make your pup’s ears ring. 

Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There’s hardly a word in the second half of that run-on sentence that doesn’t summon up one of the Great Satans of Mr. Kenney’s brand of 1950s style social conservatism. Governments! City folks! Regular day jobs! Unions! Institutions! And, of course, daycare, a word loaded in conservative circles with threatening implications of women with education, careers, options and potential, in addition to children. 

The base will hear the message, even if some of the premier’s various targets don’t.

Mr. Kenney also complained the proposed federal program doesn’t have anything for for-profit child care outfits.

Alberta’s premier does ramble on, so I’m not about to catalogue his entire windy answer. Let’s leave that to Postmedia, shall we? But if you’re a glutton for punishment or determined to hear his remarks in full context, including the long list of people he wants to think they will be left out of Ottawa’s proposal, they begin at about the 27.50 mark in Youtube video of the daily COVID briefing. 

The government’s talking points seem to have been widely distributed. 

Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz (Photo: Twitter).

“We’re not really interested in a one-size-fits-all institutionalized program across the country,” parroted Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz to a CBC reporter yesterday. “Children and families have diverse needs and any program has to acknowledge that.”

“The budget appears to lack the flexibility that parents need and provincial governments require,” said Finance Minister Travis Toews in his reaction late Monday to the federal budget. “Any child care agreement between Alberta and Ottawa must respect the diverse needs of children and the fundamental principle of parental choice in child care options.”

“Only 1 in 7 Alberta parents choose institutional day care for their kids,” grumped Brock Harrison, the premier’s executive director of communications and planning. “Any child care deal with Ottawa needs to make it more affordable for the other 6.” 

Never mind that more parents would choose better quality child care if they could afford it, and if it were available. 

Brock Harrison, the premier’s executive director of communications (Photo: Facebook).

What the Kenney Government is actually not interested in is affordable, accessible child care oriented to the needs of children and parents, instead of profit, privatization, and market ideology. 

So will Mr. Kenney just say no? Here he is again at yesterday afternoon’s COVID news conference:

“I’ll tell you what. If it’s a take-it-or-leave-it, Ottawa-style, cookie-cutter program, I don’t think that satisfies the demands or expectations of Albertans.”

This has little to do with the demands and expectations of Albertans, of course. It has to do with the ideology of the Kenney Government. And it means, we won’t take it.

Consider the Kenney culture war on publicly funded child care to have been declared. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Oh yes, let the culture wars begin. Oh, they actually have, here in Alberta – some time ago.

    I look at this as just another eastern front in Kenney’s ongoing and generally not very successful war against progress. So yes, he may galvanize the home schooling and private schooling crowds, at least long enough for them to overlook his own shortcomings for a while. Perhaps he will win that battle, but the bigger one, no.

    Yes it is audacious how many times the Federal Liberals promised a national child care program. Personally, I would have preferred pharmcare this time, but I do think Trudeau’s sense of timing is good here. The Federal Liberals dithered some on carbon taxes too over the years, but now even Federal Conservative Leader O’Toole seems half on the band wagon now. So, the Federal Liberals need something new and I suspect this is just the latest hill for those Conservative culture warriors like Kenney to die on politically.

    I suppose in the end, it won’t quite be a national program. Mr. Kenney will dig in his heels and Mr. O’Toole will equivocate enough that it will seem as if he is wearing a t-shirt saying “I’m with Stupid”. I suspect voters will react accordingly. At some point even Alberta Conservatives will tire of all their losing, but probably not until after Alberta voters do.

    Perhaps in the end, Mr. Kenney may eventually have to get a real job or go work for some Conservative foundation – the go to retirement sinecure for failed Conservative leaders.

    1. On Pharmacare, the Star’s Thomas Walkom put forward an interesting thesis on why the Liberal government once again punted on this issue in this week’s federal budget: he suggests it’s about how pivotal the research & production horsepower of the big multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers have been in getting COVID-19 vaccines out the door in record time, and how dependent we are as a nation on their supply chains to get the population immunized in a timely fashion.

  2. It’s exactly how it is with the UCP. They are playing the Ralph Klein game, of we must support private for profit enterprises, no matter how risky they are. We’ve seen this before in Alberta, under the PCs, and under another federal Liberal government, regarding a national child care subsidy. Private for profit daycares have poorly trained staff, compromised quality of service, and are only there to see a profit margin for themselves.

  3. Helping out regular citizens in their daily grind to make a living? Through affordable child care? “Complete commie nonsense! Not on your nellie!” proclaimed local ideological giant and Supreme Leader of Hellberta, jason kenney. “Our government was elected to ward off socialism and ecofreaks, and to ensure individuals stand on their own two feet while working towards a rich and rewarding future at $14 an hour! That’s the Alberta spirit!”

    Other Con premiers across the Business First Provinces of Canada are aghast at the potentially flagrant waste of tax money on those citizens who actually pay it in the first place. “Based on our collective superlative performance at battling Covid-19, the feds need to give the provinces MUCH MORE in the way of health grant transfers to WASTE as we see fit!” spluttered an outraged Pallister of Manitoba. “We’re the experts at it!”

    Ford of Ontario suddenly luckily discovered Friday one of his staffers had tested positive for Covid-19, so took the weekend off to self-isolate and munch on delivery pizza. The fact that everyone in Ontario was after his sorry hide for a hodge-podge of crappily reasoned restrictions, had NOTHING to do with his sudden disappearance. No Sir! Coming up for air on Tuesday, Ford reassured an on-edge Ontario, “I’m still running the Covid show from self-isolation!” Almost 14 million people groaned in relief as the good news sank in.


    Is there a competent one from Quebec to the Rockies? Search parties combing millions of square kilometres of bush and plains with specially trained sniffer dogs have so far discovered not a single one. “But we’re still hopeful,” puffed a winded team leader in the badlands of Saskatchewan. “Never say die! However, we have located massive loads of heretofore undiscovered dinosaur bones, so there’s that!”

    1. You have to wonder why it is that the only apparently competent conservatives in Canada are the PC governments in New Brunswick & PEI — and the ostensibly Liberal government of Nova Scotia, whose recently-retired Premier Stephen McNeil — “stay the blazes home!” — was probably the most conservative Liberal Premier in recent memory.

  4. The reaction is what I expected from this group of morons.
    This one will be their end though, just watch.
    Jason Kenney just signed his end of life papers

  5. kkkenney and his mob of slobbering konservatives can be counted on to flee from anything that is designed to help just plain folks; his constituency, after all, is that thin sliver of wealthy corporate shareholders.
    In this he and the UCP dopes are in alignment with the rest of the conservative nut-jobs on this Continent. Not a one of them will tolerate this scheme; it is an existential threat to a dying and moribund conservative ideology.

    This will be as clear a line between modern progressive and egalitarian policy and the old style corrupt and criminal cronyism as was the Democratic vs tRump dustup we witnessed over the last half decade.
    Lets hope, and work for a clear and decisive defeat of these monsters from the past.

  6. Ah, yes, Kenney’s war on women and children continues. Because who understands women and children better than a single white male, and never-married bachelor, who has no children and cloisters himself away from the fetid masses in a Sky Palace? Kenney’s Alberta is like the Titanic (2021 version named “Satanic”), where women and children are put in the lifeboats without any oars in the middle of the night, and set adrift as the ship sinks. Unfortunately for him, anyone who has stepped on Lego in bare feet will likely find modern, advanced cultures in other provinces more attractive as a base for their young families, and the brain drain will continue. That’s one way to assure Alberta will never have an educated, highly-trained workforce ever again: kick the Lego and the legs out from under them. It’s a battle to extinction between modern hominids and Kenney’s crew, and Kenney’s crew is stacking up bigger rocks. Bigfoot Family, indeed. It’s enough to make you wish they’d stuff their big foots in their mouths and head back to their caves before they disgrace this province’s reputation any further.

  7. “Pookie” (Harrison) is truly a vile individual who trolls Twitter, where he offers nothing but contempt. It’s time for him to be ejected from the overpaid position afforded to him by Kenney.

  8. Union-run institutional daycare? As someone noted on twitterverse, there is no such thing as union-run daycare….
    And the bluster from Jason Kenney continues.

    Though I must say I am a bit skeptical of this Liberal promise. First I heard of national affordable childcare was by Brian Mulroney in 1984, when I was pregnant with my youngest son, now soon to be 37. Then of course promise made in all three Liberal red books and when Paul Martin finally negotiated the deals with all provinces, he lost the election to Stephen Harper who promptly cancelled it and replaced it with $100.00/month taxable benefit.

    But maybe this time with Christia Freeland as finance minister?

    1. Maybe this time, with the Covid crisis breaking open fracture lines throughout Canada–look at Jason’s list. Day job vs. shift worker, urban vs. rural, union vs. non-union, even licensed vs. unlicensed daycare. But the most ironic is government vs. private–when you remember this GOVERNMENT versus every PRIVATE CITIZEN in the province. Except, of course, the rich ones.

  9. I’m pleased to recall that among the gains achieved in the 1980 Alberta nurses’ strike (41 years ago this month) was a joint union-management pilot project for a child care centre associated with Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital. Also the first collective agreement in Alberta prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A few people were heard to say “welcome to the 1980s”.

      1. Now that was what I call a strike! Great preparation and organization, “Nurse are worth it” slogan, 1950s employer
        attitude all added up to defiance. Nurses at the picket lines on the government deadline chanting: “Hell No, we won’t go”. Court case over the weekend (the Cargo of Peas case). Settlement (except Cochran) signed early Monday
        morning. A huge success – Professional Responsibility clause appears in the collective agreement. Well done.

  10. I’m sure that the notion that Canada’s latest finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, has a uterus threw Premier Crying & Angry Midget into a furious.

    How dare these uppity wummuns do a man’s job? Doesn’t Freeland have babies at home? How dare she abandon them?

    Of course, what does a terminally single, committed bachelor know about children or their care? He never had to look after anyone but himself — why can’t more people be as a smart and as committed to their virginity as Jason Kenney?

    Aren’t kids no more than criminals in waiting? Now, if you want to talk about childcare Kenney-style, let the little shites grow up so they can be put in the prisons. Now, there’s a childcare strategy that the UCP can get behind.

  11. Dear “Conservatives”,

    If women don’t go to work your private sector friends can’t exploit their labour. Y’all like money, right?

    There’s also the whole “children are the future of the species” argument, but let’s be real, people who deny climate change don’t care about the future of the species. Damndest thing when people who don’t care about “conserving” anything call themselves “conservatives”. Remember when words used to mean things?

  12. It’s pretty rich to hear this claptrap coming from the unmarried, childless (as far as we know … *wink*) Premier Jason Kenney, who has never had to grapple with the dilemma that child care can cost more than the working parent actually earns by working. For single parents, this is particularly daunting, but it’s tough for two-parent households as well, since most families today need two incomes to support themselves, for all sorts of macro- and micro-economic reasons dating back to the Reagan-Thatcher-Mulroney axis of the 1980s.

    As for Minister Toews, he’s a hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool so-con who thinks “barefoot, pregnant & in the kitchen” is incomplete — it should also read “clutching a Bible”. (His pre-politics gig as a Board member of the Peace River Bible Institute in Sexsmith, ~20 km north of Grande Prairie, is sufficient evidence of that).

    My question is, does Freeland have the guts to tell Kenney et. al. that “who pays the piper calls the tune”, i.e. if you want the feds’ money for child care, you do it the feds’ way? And, will the people of Alberta stand for Toews & Kenney saying ‘No’ to Ottawa on this?

  13. Oh, how I WISH the Feds had the guts to call Jason’s bluff. Imagine an affordable day-care program, subsidized at $10 per day, run by qualified staff earning union wages–operated entirely by the Federal (Liberal) government. Here in Alberta. The mind boggles….

    Now, picture the inevitable lawsuit. “Infringement of provincial turf!” Imagine Kenney squirming when the Supreme Court rules day care is constitutional, under the responsibility to provide for “peace, order and good government.”

  14. My son is paying $21,600.per year for day care so why wouldn’t a parent want to see him get government help to reduce this burden? It certainly doesn’t make Kenney look very smart cutting taxes for his rich friends while he cuts health care and teaching jobs and increases university fees by 40% if he also refuses to support this federal government plan. By making it so mother’s could now afford to back to work and financially help the family out would also help eliminate some of this family violence.

  15. As a father of 6 (I’m not an evangelical, so stop typing), I wouldn’t ever consider trusting my kids to a goverment run childcare facility. They impose overly rigid rules around drop-off and pick-up times, what the kids can bring with them, what the kids wear, what the kids eat, how sick a kid can be (young kids are always some degree of sick) and are typically staffed by disinterested employees simply punching the clock. Privately run dayhomes, as an alternative, are much more flexible and as owner-operated businesses, highly incented to provide excellent service. I largely avoided childcare services (again stop typing, my significant other was never barefoot and pregnant and has an extremely demanding career), but as a last resort used the services of several excellent day homes. Why do I call them “excellent”. The kids talking about the great times they had and looking forward to seeing their dayhome friends was a far better indicator than any alleged government accreditation.

    A better government initiative would be adding an extra hour and half of instructional time so that school days better align with the time intervals that parents typically spend at work. This could be done at no cost as it would require no additional facilties or staff.

    I also question why childcare is a more pressing issue today than it was decades ago. The fertility rate is lower, parents are typically older and more established in their careers, work is more flexible in terms of hours and location and technology enables at least partial direct surveillance of children. I doubt “childcare” was even in my mother’s vocabulary in the 70’s and 80’s as she would have viewed having someone else looking after her children as wasteful and a personal failure. She worked full time and managed to raise 5 kids without any form of what today would be called childcare: staggering work hours with my father, leaving us home alone once the oldest reached about 11, sending us to play with neighboring children for a few hours when no other option available. The need for universal childcare seems to be another symptom of too many social scientists looking for problems.

  16. This proposal is a very cunnning move by Trudeau’s puppet masters. Most provinces will be against it as they already face bleak financial futures sustaining their education and healthcare systems. Plus they probably doubt the Federal committment to 50:50 cost sharing as the Feds have never lived up to such pledges in the past. As most Premiers are middle aged white guys, the Telford Ministry of Misdirection can easily spin this as a wedge between women and the crusty, old premiers. Of course framing childcare as a women’s issue is incredibly condescending as in women have such poor judgement in choosing their partners, finding childcare and raising their children, that they can only do so with assistance from the government.

  17. As late as I am to this party, I just have one small observation. I think almost every adult has one or more children in the course of their lives, a few sad old outcasts like myself excepted. And almost everybody works. I see very directly in my co-workers and direct reports the havoc that lack of consistent child care wreaks on working people, working women most of all.

    So where I’m going with this is that daycare is best seen as a form of insurance, or more accurately an annuity, that everyone pays annually through taxes. And those with children benefit directly over the relatively few childhood years where daycare is necessary. Those of us who are childless should take pleasure in paying a share, in the same way that I take pleasure in walking by a well-maintained public school at recess: visible and very audible evidence that I am helping my friends and neighbours care for their children, children who will all too soon be caring for me. We can argue about the details of program delivery, along the lines of some of Doug’s quibbles above, but it seems to me that other attitude is just morally reprehensible.

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