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The empty toddler room at Compass Early Learning & Care in Bowmanville, Ont.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Ontario is now the lone province without a $10-a-day child care deal with Ottawa, as New Brunswick announced such an agreement on Monday.

However, talks between Ontario and Ottawa are progressing well, both sides say – although it’s unclear whether the major impasse over billions of dollars in funding for the country’s largest province will be resolved before the end of the year.

Aside from Ontario, both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have yet to sign agreements. But Karina Gould, the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, said a deal with the Northwest Territories is “imminent” and one is on the horizon for Nunavut as well, with no “major impediments” at play. The rest of the provinces, and Yukon, have now signed on to Ottawa’s $30-billion five-year child-care plan that promises to cut fees to an average of $10 a day across the country by 2025 and trim them in half by next year.

Ms. Gould said federal and Ontario officials have talked regularly to go over numbers and modelling – with discussions now “ramping up” – and will begin to hash out details this week regarding the province’s plans for daycare spaces and wages. Ms. Gould added that she’s been in regular discussions with Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, and that they spoke last Friday. Ontario officials said Premier Doug Ford spoke with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about the issue over the weekend.

“I would say things are really moving positively,” Ms. Gould told The Globe and Mail on Monday. “I think there’s significant political will on both sides to advance this conversation. So I’m feeling pretty optimistic.”

The province’s key gripe remains that the $10.2-billion in funding promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for Ontario remains insufficient to lower child care costs to $10 a day by 2025. Ms. Gould said that figure, based on population, remains Ottawa’s offer.

“It’s important to recall that $10.2-billion is Ontario’s fair share,” she said. “We’ve managed to reach agreements with 10 of the 13 jurisdictions so far, and that is something that’s really, really important – that each province does get their fair share.”

Ontario has also argued that it spends $3.6-billion on full-day kindergarten, and should be recognized for the investment.

Ms. Gould said that Ottawa “recognizes and appreciates” the province’s full-day kindergarten regime, adding that the federal government has negotiated agreements with the provinces and territories based on their unique features and dynamics.

After facing pushback for not striking an agreement, Mr. Ford previously said he won’t strike a “bad deal” that leaves the province on the hook for billions. Critics have accused him of dragging out the talks in order to reach a deal closer to next year’s June election.

“Certainly I hope to get one before June,” Ms. Gould said. “I think there’s a renewed sense of urgency on their behalf.”

Mr. Lecce was not available for an interview on Monday, his office said. In a statement, he said talks are continuing.

“Our government is at the table making the case to the federal government for a fair deal and investment to deliver 10-dollar-a-day child care. We will continue to work collaboratively with the federal government to land a fair deal that finally makes child care more affordable and accessible for all families in rural, suburban and urban communities across Ontario.”

On Monday, New Brunswick became the latest province to sign a daycare agreement with Ottawa, announcing a five-year-deal that will reduce the cost of child care to $10 a day by 2025-2026. Alberta announced a deal with Ottawa last month.

The federal government will contribute $491-million to New Brunswick and the province will kick in $53-million. The $544-million deal took longer to negotiate in part because of New Brunswick’s concerns about the potential impact of federal funding on smaller, for-profit businesses. It’s expected the agreement will add 5,700 additional child care spaces, according to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.

“Today we are signing an agreement that works for New Brunswick’s families and early childhood sector,” Mr. Higgs said. “We are helping families find more affordable, quality, inclusive child care, but we are also able to help support small businesses and build on successful programs that have increased the quality of learning in facilities.”

Included in the agreement is a 25-per-cent wage increase for early childhood educators, bringing pay in the sector’s predominantly female work force up to $23.47 an hour, within five years.

“This is a transformative agreement for New Brunswick women and parents. We have advocated for accessible, affordable and inclusive child care for decades. This is essential to women’s full participation in the work force and hence their financial independence,” said Krysta Cowling, chair of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity.

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