The Ontario government is disputing NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's assertion that the country's largest province supports his plan to create one million $15-a-day childcare spaces.
The province's education minister, Liz Sandals, says Ontario welcomes new investments and interest from "all federal partners" on child care.
But she says Mr. Mulcair has not provided sufficient details of his plan – which would require provinces to pick up 40 per cent of the tab – to determine whether Ontario would be prepared to buy in.
Moreover, Ms. Sandals says Ontario has already spent billions on childcare and full-day kindergarten and those investments would have to be recognized "in full" in any national program requiring matching provincial funds.
If Ontario and other provinces were to insist that money already being spent on child care be counted as part of their matching share of a national program, that could significantly reduce the number of new spaces Mr. Mulcair is promising to create.
"While the federal NDP like to claim Ontario supports their plan, they have yet to provide Canadians with any details for their proposal, including how it would impact Ontario families," Ms. Sandals said in an e-mail.
"As it stands, the proposal put forward by the federal NDP leaves a lot of unanswered questions."
New Democrat MP Peggy Nash said Sunday that Mr. Mulcair has plenty of experience as a provincial cabinet minister in Quebec and realizes there's no "one size fits all" approach to the issue.
"Tom will engage with the provinces, recognize their unique needs, take their existing programs into account and ensure long-term, predictable funding so provinces and communities can plan ahead," she said in an e-mail.
Ontario's view of the NDP childcare proposal was thrown into question Saturday after Liberal MP John McCallum predicted Mr. Mulcair's plan will never materialize because provinces don't have the money to contribute their share of the program, which he pegged at $3.3-billion.
"Where are the provinces going to come up with $3.3-billion? I come from Ontario. Ontario has a significant deficit. Ontario would have to come up with a billion dollars-plus per year," Mr. McCallum told a news conference.
"If the provinces don't come up with the money, there won't be any childcare spaces."
Mr. Mulcair shot back that the Liberals failed to deliver a national childcare program after promising it for 13 years and are now frustrated that the NDP plan is receiving such positive reviews.
"We have the clear understanding of even provinces like Ontario (where) Premier (Kathleen) Wynne has said that she likes our plan," Mr. Mulcair said.
Mr. Mulcair is proposing over eight years to create one million childcare spaces that would be accessible to parents for $15 a day, regardless of income. The federal government would pick up 60 per cent of the cost, which the NDP estimates would cost the federal treasury $5-billion annually once fully implemented. The provinces are to pay 40 per cent of the tab.
The NDP says Manitoba, British Columbia and New Brunswick have signalled a willingness to negotiate a shared-cost childcare program.
However, a spokesperson for the B.C. government said Sunday that the province is taking no position on any federal party's election campaign proposals and will work with whomever forms government on Oct. 19 to do what's best for British Columbians.
Ms. Wynne, who has been actively campaigning for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the federal campaign, signed on to a letter from all premiers to Prime Minister Stephen Harper just last month, in which the provincial leaders called for federal "supports to families such as affordable, quality childcare."
Moreover, Ms. Wynne's Liberals supported an NDP motion in the Ontario legislature last fall calling on the province to "partner with the federal government to ensure every parent in Ontario has access to child care at a cost of no more than $15 a day per child."
But Ms. Sandals said that motion included no specific details on how such a program would be funded.