Time and again, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have demonstrated that these guys can’t get along. Just this month, Canada’s universal national child care program reached a 60-day financing agreement with Ottawa that would have meant Mr. Ford’s government would be forced to pay additional annual support to Ontario, regardless of how it turned out. Yet as Purdy Crawford notes in the Toronto Star, the pair had another disagreement in the House of Commons on Monday over a little-known provision in Mr. Ford’s provincial budget that would loosen government oversight of Catholic- and secular-run daycare centres in Ontario.
Ontario’s permissive attitude toward unregulated, non-secular organizations is one of many examples of federal-provincial feuding. But it could get worse if the two parties are unable to come to an amicable compromise.
The plight of Ms. Wynne’s government is well-known: It is saddled with a combined $4.5-billion debt that eats up 7 per cent of its revenues, with pension costs on the horizon. Many people think the solution is to borrow more money to fill that gap. Mr. Ford instead says Ontario will go back to old-fashioned name-calling: “Cattle” on the long-gun registry, “Jimmy the Greek” on subsidized daycare. In order to distance himself from that old-school politics, the Prime Minister has even referred to Mr. Ford as the goons of Rob Ford’s infamous crack cocaine scandal.
But with less than a year to go before a provincial election, Mr. Ford is balking at doing anything that might be seen as further exacerbating his rivalry with Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Ford’s pitch that Ontario is not being treated fairly is deeply hypocritical given that Mr. Ford ran a government without enough money to put full-day child care in every school over the past several years. Yet now, in his quest to win favour with the so-called Conservative party’s base, Mr. Ford says the government is refusing to give Ontario the funding it needs to provide for affordable child care.
The federal government, on the other hand, is very clear that it can’t do anything without the co-operation of the provinces, and doing nothing will only spur the growth of un-regulated daycare and push up Ontario’s debt. It’s in the national interest to get this problem resolved.
Both parties should agree to put aside politics, recognise the need for subsidy reform and find a solution that works for all. That is not a backroom deal, it’s a country-wide consensus on what is best for children and for children’s parents.