Amid pipe­line ten­sions, B.C. un­cer­tain about child­care fund­ing

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JUS­TINE HUNTER VIC­TO­RIA DANIEL LE­BLANC OT­TAWA

The B.C. gov­ern­ment says it had a com­mit­ment from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for $153-mil­lion in fund­ing for ex­panded child-care pro­grams, but Ot­tawa’s last­mo­ment can­cel­la­tion of the planned joint an­nounce­ment has cre­ated un­cer­tainty about when the money is com­ing.

In the midst of nav­i­gat­ing a tense trade dis­pute be­tween B.C. and Al­berta over the ex­pan­sion of Kin­der Mor­gan Canada Ltd.’s Trans Moun­tain oil pipe­line, the NDP gov­ern­ment said fed­eral of­fi­cials e-mailed their B.C. coun­ter­parts on the eve of the planned Feb. 9 an­nounce­ment that the event was be­ing post­poned, and no rea­sons were given.

On Wed­nes­day, of­fi­cials in Ot­tawa said a deal will be an­nounced in due course, and that the trade dis­pute will not af­fect the amount or terms for the prov­ince.

The B.C. gov­ern­ment has been bank­ing on the fed­eral fund­ing to help it launch an af­ford­able child­care pro­gram that is to be the cor­ner­stone of the provin­cial bud­get that will be tabled on Feb. 20. Un­less the fund­ing is con­firmed in the next few days, the bud­get will not re­flect Ot­tawa’s con­tri­bu­tion.

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment was so cer­tain the deal was sealed that it had al­ready in­cluded it in a cabi­net or­der that was made pub­lic on Feb. 9. The cabi­net or­der in­cluded a 41-page frame­work agree­ment that details how the fed­eral money will be used to fund spa­ces for In­dige­nous chil­dren, stu­dents with spe­cial needs and chil­dren of young par­ents. Un­der that an­tic­i­pated agree­ment, Ot­tawa is to pro­vide $51mil­lion each year for three years.

B.C.’s min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for child care, Ka­t­rina Chen, said that money is still sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We are fi­nal­iz­ing the plan,” she told re­porters on Wed­nes­day. “Our two of­fices are reschedul­ing the an­nounce­ment.”

Ms. Chen said the fed­eral money is to sup­ple­ment her gov­ern­ment’s new child care pack­age that will in­crease the num­ber of day­care spa­ces, en­hance train­ing for care­givers and pro­vide fi­nan­cial re­lief to low-in­come fam­i­lies. “I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing the money com­ing in soon.”

In Ot­tawa, of­fi­cials in­di­cated the deal will be com­pleted shortly.

A spokesman for Jean-Yves Du­c­los, the fed­eral Min­is­ter of Fam­i­lies, Chil­dren and So­cial Devel­op­ment, said the an­nounce­ment of the deal was only put off for lo­gis­ti­cal rea­sons.

“To date, we have signed seven bi­lat­eral agree­ments with prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries,” Mathieu Fil­ion said. “In re­la­tion to Bri­tish Columbia, there had been a date for an an­nounce­ment that was ten­ta­tively set aside last week, but it had to be changed for sched­ul­ing rea­sons. We ac­knowl­edge it was our fault, but there will be a deal signed in the near future with the B.C. gov­ern­ment.”

Mr. Fil­ion added that the de­lay “is in no way con­nected to B.C.’s po­si­tion on Kin­der Mor­gan, and will have no im­pact to the amount or terms for the prov­ince.”

How­ever, B.C. Premier John Hor­gan ac­knowl­edged in an interview on CBC Ra­dio on Wed­nes­day that he is con­cerned about the future of fed­eral fund­ing for so­cial pro­grams be­cause of the pipe­line dis­pute.

“We had un­til re­cently a very pos­i­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” he said, “and we were mak­ing great progress, par­tic­u­larly on child­care. We an­nounced an agree­ment be­tween the two through [a cabi­net or­der] last week. We were to have a sign­ing cer­e­mony that’s been de­layed.”

The Premier said he is not cer­tain the de­lay was due to the Kin­der Mor­gan dis­pute, “but cer­tainly, there is con­ster­na­tion in Ot­tawa that the gov­ern­ments of B.C. and Al­berta are at a fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ment.”

Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley has launched a trade war over B.C.’s threat to block ex­panded ship­ments of oil to its coast while it con­sults on whether a po­ten­tial oil spill can be cleaned up.

Ms. Not­ley has banned B.C. wines from Al­berta liquor stores in a bid to force the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to thwart the Bri­tish Columbia gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts.

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