‘We will get the deal done,’ Ford says of child-care talks with fiscal year nearing its end

Premier Doug Ford is expressing increasing confidence that his government will soon “get the deal done” with the federal government to reduce the cost of child care in Ontario amid a report suggesting that there has been significant progress at the negotiating table.

The Toronto Star reported on Friday that the feds are considering providing the provinces with hundreds of millions in additional money to create child care spaces as part of an arrangement that would be separate from the $30 billion child care accord, which Ontario remains the lone holdout for.

The newspaper said that an unnamed top Ontario government official described the new money as a “game changer.”

It also quoted a federal official saying that the two sides “we’re on track” to reach a deal, likely next week.

Asked about the development during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Ford refused to provide specific details but seemed to express confidence that a deal was finally in reach.

His optimistic tone comes about three weeks after a federal official told CP24 that negotiations had entered their “next phase” following the submission of a long-requested action plan by the Ontario government.

Ford also suggested that an announcement on a deal could be coming “very, very soon” during a press conference alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“We have been working very closely with the federal government. I always say we wouldn’t sign a deal that doesn’t work for the people of Ontario and that is where we are at,” Ford said on Friday. “We have worked very collaboratively with the federal government on so many different issues and we will get the deal done.”

The federal government has offered Ontario $10.2 billion in funding to reduce the average cost of child care by 50 per cent by the end of 2022 en route to lowering it further to $10 a day by 2026.

But the province has been reluctant to sign onto the accord, with Education Minister Stephen Lecce previously questioning whether there was sufficient funding to actually reduce costs to an average of $10 a day within five years.

Meanwhile, parents in a number of provinces are already saving hundreds of dollars a month.

Some have even been issued large retroactive rebates.

As an example, Saskatchewan reduced fees by 50 per cent as of November and also plans to issue parents rebate cheques retroactive to last July.

“Parents in Ontario paying crushing, mortgage-sized fees for child care could have gotten the relief of $10-a-day child care for months now,” NDP Child Care critic Bhutila Karpoc said in a statement released on Friday afternoon. “Instead, Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce have dragged their heels on signing a deal with Ottawa, leaving families struggling and in the dark about their plans, while every other province and territory has signed on.”

Federal officials have previously told CTV News Toronto that more than a billion dollars of the funding promised to Ontario was intended for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and could “lapse” if a deal isn’t reached by the end of this month.

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