MONTREAL - Quebec's new premier says she plans to complete a project she launched 15 years ago and wants to bring low-cost public daycare to every Quebec family that wants it.
Premier Pauline Marois, who as education minister in 1997 introduced the now-famous public daycare program, is promising to iron out its flaws within four years.
The $7-a-day daycare system is plagued by a shortage of available spaces and, for many families, getting off the waiting list remains an illusory dream.
Marois says the shortages could have been fixed years ago, had the previous Liberal government made it a priority.
Her government plans to create 28,000 new spaces — about half of which were promised earlier this year by the previous government, before the provincial election.
She says the project will take four years and eventually cost the province $261 million more per year. Marois says her plan will eventually leave the province with a spot for every child.
That's far from the case today.
The chronic shortages have fed criticism that the program has had an unintended consequence: that of lower-income families, without access to cheap daycare, subsidizing through their tax dollars the daycare spaces snapped up by wealthier Quebecers.
However, the system has its defenders and was found in a recent study to have had clear economic benefits by helping single parents enter the workforce. In Ottawa, the last Liberal government of Paul Martin was hoping to create a national system based on Quebec's.