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

On April 19, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the Trudeau Government plans to spend $30 billion on a national child care plan with a target of reducing parents’ costs to $10 a day per child in five years. 

On April 22, Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz announced that the Kenney Government had cobbled together something called the “Supporting Alberta Working Parents Advisory Group” to advise “on how best to leverage federal funds to suit the unique needs of Alberta parents and child care operators.”

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

Coincidence? Not likely. 

Two days before the provincial news release was published to an almost complete lack of interest by mainstream media, Premier Jason Kenney addressed a question on the topic from a reporter at the daily COVID-19 briefing by hinting that if the federal proposal didn’t meet what he called “the demands or expectations of Albertans,” the province would refuse the federal funds for child care. 

So it’s reasonable to assume the hastily created eight-member committee is intended to provide and justify the excuses Mr. Kenney will need to keep Alberta out of what is sure to be an enormously popular national program, given the crippling cost of child care to families nowadays. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that the federal child care program is a proposal than a budget item, in effect an early election promise by the Trudeau Government. Alas, federal Liberals have a bad record of promising child care programs before elections and not delivering them afterward. Still, a certain amount of healthy skepticism about broken promises notwithstanding, this appears to be a serious proposal by the new finance minister. 

Meantime, we know from past performance and recent comments, that Mr. Kenney will do whatever he can to scuttle it – not just in Alberta but nationally. From his perspective, just keeping Alberta out and depriving the province’s parents of access to $10-a-day childcare would definitely be only the second-best outcome. 

This is the guy, after all, whose first actions in office as premier involved scuttling the NDP’s $25-per-day child care pilot program – so $10-a-day child care is bound to be even more threatening to the 1950s-focused Alberta premier and his social conservative political base than the NDP’s effort. 

The key talking point in the UCP’s coming War on Child Care has been the complaint, in the premier’s words, that the federal program takes a “cookie-cutter approach” (that is, presumably, has consistent care and safety standards) and doesn’t include the commercial outfits that have driven costs into the stratosphere.

Alberta blogger Susan Wright (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But as political blogger Susan Wright noted on the weekend, since Ottawa has released no details of how the program will operate, Mr. Kenney is just making it up when he claims the program will have a cookie-cutter approach. In fact he has no idea. 

UCP talking heads are also making an effort to encourage a sense of grievance among parents whose “choices” don’t include “institutional” child care – stay-at-home home schoolers and the like who want to dip into the federal cash just like they dip into provincial money that should go to public education. 

Mr. Kenney slipped and made it clear where he’s really going with this when he started reeling off divisive ideological dog whistles at his April 20 news conference about “nine-to-five, urban, government- and union-run institutional daycare.” Every one of them, including the use of “daycare,” intended to drive a wedge between his base and the huge numbers of ordinary Canadians who would benefit from the program.

But Mr. Kenney’s real red line is probably Ottawa’s intention not to use federal money to subsidize private, for-profit, child care operations – the kinds of outfits that can charge parents more than $20,000 a year for child care in some major Canadian cities. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That would likely explain why Ms. Schulz and the premier ensured the panel included the chair of the Alberta Association of Child Care Operators, which opposed the NDP’s $25-a-day program. 

A 2019 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed the median monthly fee for toddler care in 2018 was $1,030 in Calgary, $875 in Edmonton. Median fees for infant care were higher – $1,100 in Calgary and $975 in Edmonton. Costs have continued to rise since then. 

When the federal program reaches its fifth year, if all promises are kept, it could reduce that Calgary cost to about $2,800 a year for care of an infant, an annual saving of more than $10,000. And it would result in decent pay for child care workers – and higher tax revenues from their earnings. 

So we can all see why Mr. Kenney would hate that!

Ms. Wright also suggested that Mr. Kenney’s creation of the working parents’ advisory group suggests he also has no idea what Alberta parents think. It’s more likely he knows perfectly well. Who wouldn’t be delighted at the prospect of saving $10,400 a year? 

Plus, the economic benefits to Canada and Alberta of the proposal would be enormous. 

But Mr. Kenney, it would seem, isn’t interested in the benefits of anything that doesn’t flow through a pipeline. Especially if it might do anything to challenge his apparent view that the 1950s were the last time God was in Heaven and all was right with the world. 

Time to scotch Alberta’s hopscotch scourge? 

Speaking of child care, Alberta’s little children will no longer be able to scrawl hopscotch ladders and the like on the province’s sidewalks – at least in the vicinity of a Conservative MLA’s office. 

The already notorious sign spotted in the window of Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s Red Deer constituency office (Photo: Twitter).

After all, it might be mistaken for political protest – and that is apparently only tolerated in Jason Kenney’s Alberta if the protesters are opposed to COVID masks and vaccinations. 

So when protesters began chalking their messages on the sidewalks in front of Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s office in Red Deer, they were soon being threatened with a criminal offence! Well, it figures the education minister wouldn’t like chalk. 

“! CAUTION Do not chalk sidewalk!” read the sign in the window of the minister’s office. “Removing chalk with a pressure washer causes damages to the property from water seepage. Section 430 of the CRIMINAL CODE. This is construed as MISCHIEF. Thanks for your understanding.”

With that, the Internet exploded with hilarity. Economist Andrew Leach, channelling Premier Kenney’s comments about enforcing COVID-19 rules, observed, “You can’t enforce your way out of chalk. People won’t comply. You’re simply going to have more people deciding to chalk because you try to enforce it. It’s really that simple.”

Expect the next few days to prove him right.

Important note: Ms. LaGrange or her landlord might, but no Canadian court is going to construe chalk writing on a sidewalk as criminal mischief. 

Join the Conversation


  1. A favourite conservative trope is that corporations are people. If they could be persuaded that people are corporations, then maybe Albertans could have nice things.

    1. Unfortunately, this is not just a trope. It is the law throughout the English-speaking world. It is one of the reasons for our coming downfall. DJC

  2. I just have to scratch my head at the UCP’s ways of thinking. It’s so idiotic, and bizarre. The UCP’s belief in choice only leads to one thing. That’s supporting private for profit enterprises, be it healthcare, schooling, or in this case, daycare. The UCP has to waste even more money on yet another panel that has a preset idea. Oh my goodness! Back when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly were on the radio, in the 1950s, one parent could afford to stay home, and look after their children, while the other one worked. That’s not the case anymore. I do believe the issue of affordable childcare was brought up in the past, by another federal Liberal government. The Alberta PCs, if I recall, didn’t like it either. It was also Ralph Klein who favoured private for profit enterprises. The UCP wants to be like their hero, and get into more privatization, despite well known risks of doing so. In Alberta, there were private for profit day cares who were in the media, and for the wrong reasons. Children at these private for profit day cares were put at risk. The Alberta PCs also had cheaply crafted make work programs for social assistance recipients, one of which was a shoddy training program for employment in daycare, which wasn’t like proper training in this area that was offered at a community college. The private for profit day care centers in Alberta would employ people who were trained with the Alberta PCs shoddy crafted daycare training program. The standards at private for profit day care centers in Alberta certainly isn’t good, because there is a lack of government oversight, and regulations get skirted. I have to shake my head at the sign on Adriana LaGrange’s constituency office. Since when does someone need a pressure washer to to remove writing from chalk on a sidewalk? The UCP are a strange bunch. Hopefully, Albertans will smarten up and get this poor excuse for a government out of office.

  3. Chalking the sidewalk in front of the Education Minister’s office, huh?
    Before laying charges under Section 430 of the CRIMINAL CODE to protect the sidewalk from water seepage, she could test her own pedagogical skills by checking the mischief maker’s work for grammar, punctuation and spelling, especially the home schoolers.

    1. Agreed. The incongruously polite ending after the threat – “thanks for your understanding” – was hilariously Canadian, though. DJC

  4. When I googled “Families that Work”, the first thing that came up was a Manning Centre podium.

  5. What a busy week Lord Farquaad has had so far. Why, just yesterday alone he put in the Kananaskis-natural-beauty-preservation-tax. This contrasts with his previous, albeit slightly delayed, plan to lop off mountaintops for coal mining, or the natural-beauty-destruction-encouragement-corporate-giveaway. There might be some yetis in them thar hills, so chop ’em down! But on the other hand, the natural beauty of McLean Creek will be exempt from this policy, because — the base! What could be more beautiful than the wanton destruction caused by the offroad vehicle set every summer weekend, from snowfall to snowfall? You see, coal mines and McLean Creek, very consistent in policy decisions WRT natural beauty.

    Also yesterday, we learned that because this pandemic is SO over, like Miranda Rosin said it was last November, the hospital laundry workers will be dismissed forthwith. Great job, laundry workers in hospitals. You have done your essential duty on the front lines during this pandemic, now go take a hike, preferably in Alberta’s scenic wonders, where you will generate revenue, thanks to the new scenic-wonders-enjoyment-tax.

    And now this anti-affordable-childcare-panel.

    All that in one day. Lord Farquaad’s plan to destroy Alberta is really picking up pace, much like the spread of Covid-19 in Alberta. Would you please disregard the pandemic, like the cabinet emergency management committee is doing? Look over there — chalk on the sidewalk! Don’t look at the laundry workers on a wildcat strike, etc., etc. Especially please do not look at the reefer trucks we moved into the yard outside your local hospital several months ago, even if you visited to scope out exactly where they are. Thank you. Now on to the rest of the week, because it’s only Wednesday. And remember these inspirational words from our illustrious Lord Farquaad, lord of all Farquaads, “Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make,”

  6. Ah, yes. Another buggaboo for the CONs to declare is hiding under every bed. In this case, the creep of socialists wanting to recruit the children to make them all lefties and gay. After all, when you can’t reproduce, recruit..or something like that.

    There can be no doubt that Premier Crying and Angry Midget is screaming at the top of his lungs about some uppity wummun in Ottawa wanting a very small, but responsible measure to become part of public policy, like a funded national childcare strategy. Of course, leave it to a childless middle-aged confirmed bachelor to tell everyone how their kids should be raised. And just to make sure, he’ll strike another blue ribbon panel of assorted CON hacks and layabouts at the public trough to sort out the issue. It should only take a few million dollars and about two years — hey, it’s still cheaper than a pipeline to nowhere.

    Fin. Minister Chrystia Freeland (And I will say Madame Prime Minister right now) has an understated ability to accomplish a great deal. I suspect that Kenney is only going to lose his shite now that he’s up against a human who happens to have a uterus…and a husband…and kids…in other words a stable home and family life.

    I better get more popcorn.

  7. If corporations feel they need the same rights as a person has, then they also should have the responsibility of a person. And every three-score-years-and-ten or so, they should be declared dead, and pay the requisite estate and transferral taxes. Oh yeah, all directors/board members swept out the door – no bonuses ‘cuz you can’t take it with you. Mandatory complete divestment of all assets.

  8. Back in the day….. 1959 era, I had recently given birth to my first child. When my employer was informed of this most “delicate” situation (it was a bank at the time) there was great encouragement to leave said job because, uh-hem old white haired customers were uncomfortable with seeing a young woman displaying evidence of uh-hem (carnal knowledge, perhaps?). So, no such thing as maternity leave, no such thing as UIC – because I was deemed not eligible to work – I was required to resign my job.

    Once I delivered said child, and waited a respectable 4 months to return to the workplace, I started working again. If my aged mind recalls, my monthly salary was in the neighbourhood of no more than $120/month. Cost of what we referred to as a baby-sitter (in a private home) was $40 per month. No deduction was offered for said cost, so after income tax and UIC, daycare was the next priority to pay for, not leaving much to purchase all those luxuries that other non-working women thought I was after.

    My husband worked for the provincial government receiving a salary of approximately $271/month less same manditory deductions as well as his contributing share toward a pension plan. There was no eating out, no going to the pub (beer parlour in those days) no even purchasing any at a liquor store. Rent, food, utilities and a small payment on a second-hand vehicle consumed every penny.

    I don’t say all this to whine and snivel, but to state how it was back in the day. Governments had no interest in anyone who, in most politician’s minds, has decided to go back to work when they should have been staying at home to look after the children, because, you know, it was your decision to have kids so have at it.

    When I examine to-day’s situation with respect to working mothers and child-care implications, I still see many similarities as I faced those many years ago, same (relative to income) costs. but far more bureaucracy creating even more difficult problems. However, once politicians realized the sheer value to their vaunted GDP that working women all create to, it was in their best interests to get involved – not because they suddenly became sensitized to the plight of working women. This is even more critical, given we’re in an age where all those jobs men traditionally held that supported a family, such as manufacturing, and creating added value to our natural resources, have all gone by the wayside due to various “free” trade agreements, women have become the “value added” component to the economy.

  9. As a childless bachelor slightly older than Lord Jason, I can only imagine how parents would react to the prospect of $10/day child care. Does “Oh thank God!” seem reasonable?

    Pressure washing hurts the sidewalk? Oh, wait. “Seepage hurts the property.” That makes sense. What about the painted graffiti on Janis Erwin’s constituency office? Did dear Adriana get upset about that? Probably not; paint cleaner doesn’t seep in and ruin the rugs, after all.

    But what a bunch of snowflakes! The Unbelievable Cretins Party needs some campaign slogans. Jason himself might not need one much longer—see Dave Cournoyer’s latest blog: https://daveberta.ca/2021/04/who-could-replace-jason-kenney-as-leader-of-the-united-conservative-party/

    Still, in case Little Lord Jason fights off the latest threat to his dominance, here are some suggestions:

    Jason Kenney: Forward to the ‘50s!
    Jason Kenney: Arse-first into the future!
    Adriana LaGrange: Don’t chalk the sidewalk!
    And a new addition, long overdue, for Tyler Shandro: Primal scream therapy—try it! I love it!

  10. It rather seems K-Boy wants to dictate what’s unique about Alberta parents’ needs rather than discovering what they really are. Whatever happened to the freedoms and rights (including to protest masks, oppose vaccinations, or sing while crowded into church pews during a pandemic) he says he’s defending against dark federal Liberal forces? Does that not cover the freedom to choose federal daycare subsidy?

    Who says the Liberal/NDP proposal won’t also subsidize those who choose ‘home daycare’? How would K-Boy play that one? While making up what’s unique about Kenneybertan families, the premier better not overplay his hand—JT has more time to sandbag daycare (and more practice!) than K-boy does to bluff his dictatorial obstinacy.

    That pocketbook argument also puts the federal proposal in pretty favourable light.

    Real rights, naturally, already exist for all Canadians, equally—including Albertans. Or is having a premier who would block what all Canadian families would have a right to receive that unique quality Kenney decrees all Albertan families must have?

    SoCon philostulty is so hypocritically contradictory it’s sometimes hard to rationalize. Does daycare have something to do with Forbidden Fruit? Would that be consistent with K-freedoms, K-rights, and K-families?

    Is it K-unique?

  11. I’m sure if Justin Trudeau & the Liberals announced that the sky is blue, Kenney and the UCP would strike a committee to rebut the blue sky theory and announce that in fact the sky is pink with green polka dots. This would also allow Kenney and his hacks to prove a new anti-Alberta conspiracy: that the Liberals have stolen / plagiarized / misappropriated the conservative blue colours in order to suppress all the freedom-loving Albertan’s from deciding what colour they think the sky is.

    Alberta: Freedom & Liberty For All.
    Damn the Torpedoes.

  12. I appreciate the humour in all of these replies. It lightens this immense heaviness I feel noting that, once again, Kenney and Schulz mention ‘parents’ and ‘operators’ only when discussing policies and practices that have a significant impact on children. I bet if we count the number of times the Minister of Children’s Services has actually talked about the impact of child care on children themselves, we would not even need to use all our digits. This concern for only taxpayers and business owners as worth listening to leaves out the most important bit: What about the incredible positive impact the federal plan would have on children?

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