Quebec Premier François Legault committed to adding 37,000 more subsidized daycare spots in the province by 2025, promising that any family that needs a place will be able to get one.
Legault's government on Thursday tabled a bill and an action plan aimed at meeting the province's child-care needs. The plan will get off the ground "as soon as possible," he said in Quebec City.
Quebec's child-care network is under increasing strain, with an all-time high of more than 50,000 names on its waiting list and a shortfall of educators that the Family Department estimates at 17,800 workers.
The plan is estimated to cost about $3 billion. However, the creation of about half of the 37,000 spots has previously been announced. New spending for the additional places announced Thursday is estimated at $1.8 billion.
About a thousand of the spaces will be created specifically for Indigenous children.
The province's long-awaited action plan contains 45 measures, including an increase of the current tax credit for child-care expenses.
The bill also creates an obligation for the province to take steps to create new subsidized daycare spaces when the demand exceeds the supply in a given region — something Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe said would help end the "interminable" wait for spots.
The province also wants to increase the maximum number of children daycares can accept, authorize temporary sites and change some non-subsidized spots to subsidized ones. The province will also make changes to the registration system to give priority to children living in disadvantaged areas and address concerns by parents who say it doesn't provide an estimated wait time or tell them where they stand on the list.
To address the shortage of workers, the government will allow future educators to alternate work in daycares with their studies, to allow them to qualify "gradually."
Members of the opposition Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire parties called on the government to raise salaries for educators, saying little would change without higher pay.
"There won't be any miracles without catching up with wages," said Québec solidaire's Christine Labrie.
A Quebec association representing daycares welcomed the announcement, saying it was long-needed. But executive director Geneviève Bélisle said the province's greatest challenge was likely going to be recruiting enough qualified staff.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.
Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press