Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at yesterday’s child care news conference as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney fidgets in the background (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Premier Jason Kenney didn’t look all that cheerful at yesterday’s announcement Alberta had finally signed on to participate in the Trudeau Government’s national $10-a-day-child-care program.

While the premier fidgeted in the background, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other federal Liberal politicians at the morning news conference in Edmonton seemed genuinely delighted that $3.8 billion in federal money will come Alberta’s way over five years to pay for community based early learning and child care.

Mr. Kenney rambles on, as he tends to do, while Mr. Trudeau discreetly checks his watch (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

The agreement will create 42,500 new regulated child care spaces in Alberta by the end of March 2026, according the news release put out by the Prime Minister’s Office. “Alberta will also see a 50 per cent reduction in average parent fees for children under the age of six in regulated child care by the end of 2022,” it added.

The province’s press release made much the same points, but tried to spin them as if they were the Kenney Government’s idea. 

For his part, Mr. Kenney doubtless had other things on his mind – not least that 22 of his United Conservative Party’s constituency associations have now passed a special motion calling for an early review of his leadership before March 1. They announced it just a couple of hours before the news conference. In fairness, that would distract any premier.

But why wouldn’t the prime minister, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Families Minister Karina Gould, and Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, the MP for Edmonton Centre, be pleased with themselves? Despite the presence of Mr. Kenney and Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, this was clearly a federal show. 

Plus, they know the child care program is going to be popular everywhere in Canada, and they can be confident they’re going to get the credit for it. 

And every one of them knew that during the recent federal election campaign Mr. Kenney had disdainfully dismissed their plan as “cookie-cutter, nine-to-five, urban, government and union-run institutional daycare options” while touting federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s boutique tax break tarted up as child care. 

And they also know that, like medicare, once it is established, the national child care program is going to be difficult for ideological free marketers like Mr. Kenney to dismantle, no matter how much they hate it. 

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Which is surely part of why Alberta’s government worked so hard to stall a deal with the federal government until after the Sept. 20 national election in the hope enough Conservatives would be elected to stop in in its tracks. 

Ruefully admitting he couldn’t leave $3.8 billion of what he rather tendentiously described as already belonging to Albertan taxpayers on the table, Mr. Kenney tried hard to act the part of a forceful advocate for Alberta, claiming that the province fought hard to include already operating private, for-profit child care centres in the agreement. Perhaps because of his distraction, he came across as petulant. 

It can’t have pleased the premier, having complained in response to a reporter’s question that Alberta didn’t get as much flexibility in its agreement with Ottawa as did Quebec, to be firmly set straight by the prime minister, sounding very much like the schoolteacher he famously once was. 

“At the end of the day, it’s not the only time we see what appears to be a two-tier federation,” Mr. Kenney grumbled. “And I think the basic aspiration of Albertans is to be treated equally, to have the same powers that Quebec exercises, and to have the same treatment from the federal government, which includes unconditional funding when there are national policy goals.”

Federal Families Minister Karina Gould (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Mr. Trudeau strode to the lectern. “Allow me to respond directly to that,” he said. 

“Quebec already has $10-a-day child care,” he explained. “Indeed, it’s at eight dollars and 50 cents. So, it made no sense for us to impose conditions that they have already surpassed. 

“So it’s not about treating one province differently, if Alberta already had child care at $8 a day, across the province, we would have had an approach similar to Quebec. 

“So let’s not create constitutional conventions out of this,” the PM summed up. “It’s about looking at what families had, what families need, and how we get to $10-a-day child care right across the country, and that’s exactly what we did.”

As for Mr. Kenney’s biggest problem yesterday, the 22 rebel constituency associations made sure copies of their letter to UCP party president Ryan Becker were in the hands of media before the news conference. It’s reasonable to assume most if not all of the MLAs from the 22 ridings support the idea of a snap review for Mr. Kenney, who is now unpopular enough with voters to put their re-election chances at risk.

Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Nevertheless, the premier gamely attempted to insist all is well. “I do believe, actually, that the vast majority of folks in my party are united around our common values and goals,” he responded, rather aspirationally, to a reporter’s question during the news conference.

Meanwhile, Mr. O’Toole, having lost September’s federal election to Mr. Trudeau, was experiencing difficulties similar to Mr. Kenney’s yesterday. 

Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters took to Facebook to tout a petition to force Mr. O’Toole to face a leadership review of his own. The petition is said to be part of a broader campaign to dislodge the federal Opposition leader, which will continue in the days ahead. 

Mr. Trudeau declined to comment on the Conservative leader’s troubles, but he couldn’t resist a gentle jab. “What I will comment on is the federal Liberals have never been so united and focused on delivering for Canadians concretely, as we’ve shown today with this child care agreement.”

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  1. If it isn’t private for profit daycares, or anything else, for that matter, including private for profit healthcare, these pretend conservatives and Reformers want nothing to do with it. If it cannot make their rich corporate friends richer, while leaving the quality of the service rendered in question, they want nothing to do with it. These pretend conservatives and Reformers want to privatize anything they can, like their hero Ralph Klein was doing, and wanted to do. No matter how hard he tries, the head honcho of the UCP still can’t redeem himself, for all his broken promises, shortcomings, and very costly shenanigans. We don’t have the true conservatives, like we did with Peter Lougheed, which is unfortunate.

    1. ANONYMOUS Boy have you got it right that’s exactly what Reformers are all about. It must must make his supporters furious watching him suck up to Trudeau after he taught them to hurl sarcastic comments at Trudeau and Notley . They are so wishy washy and will say anything or do anything to get elected, but then it doesn’t take much to fool Albertans.

      A lawyer friend used to say I wonder what it’s like to be so stupid you have to get a drunkard like Ralph Klein to do your thinking for you. He died about ten years ago , but hated Klein even more than I did, and couldn’t believe how stupid Albertans were for supporting him.

    2. True, Anonymous, these guys are Republicans in all but name. Since Ralph Klein won the Old Tory leadership, Alberta hasn’t had progressive conservatives. King Ralph led the Regressive Conservative Party of Oilberduh.

      Jason Kenney leads the (reader’s choice):
      • Unhinged Contrarian Party
      • Utterly Confused Party
      • Unlimited Cocktails Party
      • Unbelievably Crazy Party
      • United in Canning the Premier Party

      (Thanks and thumbs-up to Guy and Linda, regulars on “Susan on the Soapbox” blog, for #3 and #5!)

  2. Kenney tends to get a bit chippy when he has to deal with Trudeau, today more so than usual. I suppose it is understandable given his party seems to be pushing up his leadership review.

    So Kenney’s previous plans to possibly preempt this by having put forth a resolution to raise the number of constituencies needed to trigger a leadership review and to restrict other resolutions at the UCP AGM, now seems to be a bit like closing the gate after the horse is already out. Perhaps Kenney will find a way to wiggle out of this, he can be clever, but it is looking like things are closing in on him this time.

    More silver linings – Alberta finally gets a decent child care program and Trudeau quickly shut down Kenney when he went into his imaginary grievance mode, something that too seldom happens in Alberta where such myths usually go unchallenged by the local mainstream media and others.

  3. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s appearance at the press conference was more an act of protest than a positive gesture to partner with Ottawa on a genuinely needed and potentially very popular and landmark program. It’s just like Kenney to throw cold water on every one’s Best Childcare Strategy Ever.

    Now that Kenney clearly has the noose around his neck, he is surely dreaming up some kind of action to stop the collision with his own party.

    I suppose he could move to change the rules at the upcoming AGM, blocking leadership reviews forever. But that action would surely cause gunplay on the floor. But most likely Kenney will call a snap election and burn the whole thing down. Fortune favours the bold, right?

    So, Kenney will take his rebellious party to the polls and make Rachel Notley and the NDP the issue. Oh, and there’s the expected return of Brian Jean to challenge Kenney’s leadership. A two-front war, eh? They never end well.

    Time to binge of that pile of cough syrup before it’s taken away.

  4. So Kenney thought Trudeau’s plan was garbage, but met him in the middle on it anyway? Sounds like a good politician. Leave it to NDP to get their way and still whine about it.

    1. Yeah he’s such a capable politician the PM pulled his card in front of national media, and he’s facing down a leadership review of his own party, while facing the lowest approval rating in alberta, maybe ever. Minister “curry in a hurry” is a natural isn’t he.

      Don’t forget the billions he pissed away betting trump would win the American election, the utter failure of the war room, and him (handily) destroying albertas service economy.

      Slow clap for Jason everyone.

    2. B: The whiners are in the UCP. They love bashing the feds, even after they get help from the feds. The UCP always has to have their way, no matter how wrong they are.

    3. Kenney is a grown-ass man badly in need of some developmental childcare himself. His appalling, spoiled-child behaviour belies something very wrong about his emotional development.

  5. I recall reading somewhere that MLA Rebecca Schulz was called out for advocating strongly for this deal. How could she say that, when it took so long? Maybe she was advocating with her own backwards premier, cabinet and caucus to for heaven’s sake accept these funds! I also think MLA Pancholi’s excellent advocacy got to the UCP. Good for her.

  6. Petulant, childish, immature, embarrassing. That pretty much sums up Kenney’s graceless, peevish, grievance-informed, and sniping response to the federal program announcement to provide 3.8 billion dollars over 5 years to fund affordable day care. His claim that somehow the feds are giving back money that they took (stole, he pretty much implied) from Alberta was risible. He looked like a buffoon, even more so when seen in relief to Trudeau’s measured and calm performance. Although not a fan of Trudeau, I do have to give him credit for his adept handling of our premier child.

    Of course, Bumbles would have preferred to get the money with no strings attached. There is, however, no way that the feds would allow that. He knows that; everyone in government knows that. Failing that, he would have liked, no doubt, to have seen the money go directly to parents so they could make the choice. But, that would not have made day care either more affordable or would it have improved the quality of childcare. That is a model that is doomed to failure.

    I do find it slightly disappointing that private day care operators get to benefit from the federal program. But, the federal program is a major step in the right direction. Let’s hope the civil servants that monitor day care will ensure that all day care operators are providing high quality care in all day cares.

  7. This reminds me of what friends in Saskatchewan told me about what reform premier Moe Scott did to the people of Saskatchewan. They wanted to build some new swimming pools but Scott refused to accept any money from Ottawa to help them do so because it might help to get Liberal MP Ralph Goodale get re-elected. He didn’t get re- elected and I think Scott had to give in to the people’s wishes and accept funds from Trudeau . Shows you how much these reformers care about the well-being of their people, doesn’t it?

    1. ALAN K SPILLER: Exactly. If people support these pretend conservatives and Reformers, they can’t expect anything good to come out of it, can they? No, they can’t.

  8. Kenney was particularly snarly and petulant, but it was appropriate to see PMJT take the opportunity to correct him!!!
    Much of Kenney’s methods, especially during the pandemic, have allowed him to not have real, or immediate, pushback like yesterday.

    Schulz is such a sycophant, as she trotted out JK’s lines at every opportunity. Even this morning on Global Edmonton TV she repeated the lies, that the delays in getting the childcare deal were due to the federal election and the naming of Karina Gould as minister, She got zero pushback from host Erin Chalmers, which is so discouraging as it lets the UCP continue with a false narrative.

  9. It was good to see and hear the Deputy Prime Minister, Peace River’s own Chrystia Freeland in Edmonton. This is the lady that lead Canada’s talks during the September 2018 negotiations that replaced NAFTA with the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement. She endured personal attacks from then US President Trump, and his almost daily tweeted rants regarding his negative perceptions of Canada’s dairy supply management system. Supply management was and remains supported by the federal Liberal Party, was successfully defended by Ms. Freeland, and remains in place to the probable relief of the over five hundred Alberta dairy farmers. She was subsequently named recipient of the Canadian Press Business Newsmaker 2018 Award.
    During that period then Alberta opposition leader Jason Kenney seemed to be keeping mum. He even managed in the company of then Alberta energy critic Prasad Panda and then trade critic Devin Dreeshen to make an eight day visit to India. What’s the old nugget about going missing when the going gets tough? Yet we still hear the whines of those who continually claim there exists not just an alleged lack of representation of western interests in federal politics, but actual ‘Liberal attacks’ on Alberta. Thank you Mr. Trudeau for maintaining the dignity expected of the position of Prime Minister and ignoring Mr. Kenney’s churlish baiting.

  10. “difficult for ideological free marketers like Mr. Kenney to dismantle”

    In a free market, realistic price signals guide consumers to make rational decisions. Subsidies, visible and invisible, distort these signals.
    Kenney is a big believer in subsidies for his favorite industries. He invested $1.5 B of our tax dollars in a pipeline (Keystone) to nowhere. Plus a $6 billion loan guarantee.
    Kenney wants Ottawa to pony up $30 B for carbon capture. Plus more billions for SMRs, hydrogen, oil & gas clean-up and reclamation.
    Fossil fuel producers and consumers use the sky as a free dump. The industry externalizes its environmental, climate, and health costs. A massive invisible subsidy. Realistic carbon pricing would remedy the problem. Kenney is not a fan.
    Climate change is the biggest market failure in history. A massive transfer of wealth from future generations to fossil fuel shareholders.
    All antithetical to the free market.

    Kenney believes in the free market when it suits him. Just about never.

  11. I am sorry to report, but the UCP has resorted to cannibalism. Like the Donner Party, they could not see a way forward. So, as many are called? Only the fat matters. Jason is, as I type this, being escorted to the traditional barbaric practice Conservative volcanic barbeque! A virgin no less! Tasty!

  12. Gosh it is hard to have to admit that we are being ‘governed’ by this idiot. I sure do hope the leadership review happens before the end of the year so that we can all or most of us have a decent Christmas gift

  13. Each of the ten provincial premierships in the Canadian federation is among the most powerful and fortunate sovereign offices in politics. A premier is usually the leader of a partisan organization which has been democratically elected by the province’s citizen electorate, yet he or she is expected to govern for all citizens during his or her term of office, regardless their partisanship. As well, a premier represents citizens to the world.

    With respect the federal government— of which all provincial governments share their citizens’ loyalty (that is, citizens vote for both their respective provincial and federal parliamentarians)—, a premier’s office belongs to no formally constituted body outside his or her jurisdiction. Premiers of the ten sovereignties and three federal Territories occasionally meet informally with some or all of the other premiers, and sometimes altogether with the prime minister of the federation. The informal meetings known as “first ministers’ conferences” are usually hosted by one of the provinces, Territories, or in a federal government ‘retreat’, as the case might be. Out of respect for host and guests alike, such meetings are not intended to settle disputes between individual provinces or premiers but, rather, to discuss common issues provinces have with the federal government. Nevertheless, decorum is also expected when the federal prime minister is host.

    The only formalities premiers must constitutionally attend to as a body are amendments to the Constitution and negotiations regarding secession of a province, both of which ultimately involve ratification by requisite provincial parliaments (Territories are not required), both of which are exceptionally rare. Otherwise, there is very little any province or Territory can do to force the feds to do something—except, perhaps, indirectly through federal election campaigns or, even more indirectly, through the courts (which are wholly independent of partisan politics).

    Although each province is a sovereign federate of Canada and some definite jurisdictional exclusiveness is enshrined in the Constitution (control over resources, for example), provincial-federal relationships are only slightly analogous to international diplomacy the federal government must also deal with in addition to domestic matters. Just like it’s a matter of decorum that a premier doesn’t use first ministers’ meetings to broach a particular beef his or her province or Territory alone has with one of the other premiers or with the federal government, so too premiers usually refrain from using the platform to assert foreign-affairs policy outside his or her jurisdiction—unless, of course, it’s a matter with which all the other premiers concur and is within the realm of constitutional reality.

    Thus Kenney embarrasses Albertans with his petty quibbling while looking a gift horse in the face-mask. The Prime Minister is respected around the world, liaises with powerful leaders on weighty strategic, scientific and economic matters, considers treaties both foreign and domestic, all the while stick-handling through provincial squabbles and federal political parties, and directly governing some 40% of Canadian territory here at home. Kenney, having been in federal government himself, should respect the office and the person occupying it as well as the 40 million Canadians the Prime Minister represents.

    Double that embarrassment that the PM was forced to rebut the snivelling K-Boy’s petulant notions of federalism, even as JT was as diplomatic as he should be with every leader he meets, domestic and foreign. Trudeau is plainly in a league Kenney will never experience, the Sovereign of the Commonwealth of Nations’ and our Head of State’s First Minister, leader of the second largest country in the world and largest bilateral trading partner with history’s most powerful nation. In comparison, Kenney looks and sounds nothing more than a mere reeve of peeve, a whistling dogcatcher, a blubbering baby who needs changing (no offence intended towards reeves, dogcatchers or babies).

    As was observed here not long ago: “The man has no shame.”

  14. I am sorry to intrude on your relaxations but Bill 85: the Education (Students First) Statutes Amendment Act?! This is a 911! Please help me! My one and only favorite sister is still teaching in your God foresaken hell hole! Jebus h fracking Carl Menger! Eeepy!

  15. Having not read any details on this new program, I’m going to simply allow my general cynicism regarding Liberals make comment. I’d suggest the only thing bothering any Conservative is that they didn’t do it first. This public money/private enterprise story will end as they always do…..

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