No free daycare anytime soon: Couillard government

The Couillard government appears to be shutting down the idea of free daycare, after a report favoring it was released Tuesday morning.

The report from the Early Childhood Education Commission says the Quebec daycare system isn't working, and introduced some radical ideas to change that — among other things, it suggested daycare services be made free for everyone, just as schools are — because daycare services, the report suggests, is education, and not just babysitting.

The report also suggests privatem for-profit daycares be done away with entirely.

"The average quality of the for-profit companies is very low," says Pierre Fortin, an economist with the University of Quebec.

He says we should think of daycare as education, and not just babysitting. He's also suggesting education in the pre-kindergarten years should be made totally free, with college-trained childcare workers on the job.

He says it may all sound radical and expensive, but it will be worth it for society.

"The first three years after birth are absolutely crucial," he says. "If you miss those three years, youy will have negative results for the rest of your life."

Meanwhile, the Couillard government threw cold water on the idea on Tuesday.

"I applaud the work done by the Commission," education minister Sébastien Proulx told reporters. "Educational daycare services are a point of pride in Quebec; it's seen and recognized everywhere. But it never was free. We have to understand there aren't that many things that are free in our society."

And finance minister Carlos Leitão says he's not looking at that idea, either, in his upcoming budget or beyond — and he also noted that parental contributions make up only a quarter of the money that goes into daycares. The government pays for the rest.

"That 25 per cent has to come from somewhere else," Leitão said.