Meili touts plan for $25/day childcare and 2,200 new childcare spaces

NDP leader Ryan Meili makes a campaign stop in Prince Albert on Oct. 6, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

NDP leader Ryan Meili touted his party’s plan for $25/day daycare and the creation of 2,200 new childcare spaces during a campaign stop in Prince Albert Tuesday.

In a press conference on the steps of City Hall to address affordability, Moe also touted his party’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 and attacked the Saskatchewan Party, accusing them of planning cuts and austerity should they win re-election later this month.

“People are feeling stretched,” Meili said.

“This isn’t new. This was happening before the pandemic and has only gotten worse.”

Meili said the cost of living has risen under the Saskatchewan Party and that wages and supports haven’t kept up.

He cited rising power bills, higher drug costs and increases to the PST.

He reiterated his party’s promise to bring in a $100 rebate for SGI customers and to reduce premiums by ten per cent. He also promised lower power and heat bills and the higher minimum wage as measures that would “make life more affordable.

“It’s a clear choice between a government that will go down the road of more cuts, more privatization, and our government that is committed to investing to put people first,” he said.

Meili said the province’s recent minimum wage increase of 13 cents is far from sufficient. The raise was part of the province’s commitment to index the minimum wage to inflation.

“You get more for a bottle at Sarcan than his so-called raise,” Meili quipped.

The child care costs are estimated to come in at $50 million per year, Meili said. The 2,200 new childcare spaces is a yearly commitment.

He said a fully-costed platform is a few days away.

“We have a plan to pay for it, but what I think is key is to recognize that these are investments,” he said.

‘“We can’t afford not to invest in child care. We can’t afford not to invest in home care. Going down the road of more cuts will slow down the economy and hurt us in the long term. Cuts are a bad idea anytime, especially in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a very dangerous approach.”

Meili argued that proper child care supports now will save money on social services, health and justice costs in the future while also allowing more families who want to the ability to go back to work.

“For every dollar we put in (childcare) publicly, we get $6 of GDP growth, not to mention the savings down the road of giving kids a great early start,” he said.

“Child care is key to our economic recovery and to supporting families.”

Meili also responded to Tuesday’s Saskatchewan Party announcement during his Prince Albert stop. The Sask. Party announced they would expand individualized autism supports for kids under age 12, as opposed to under age 6, should they be re-elected.

The new supports would amount to $6,000 per year and are estimated to cost $6 million annually.

Meili said his party’s approach to autism supports will be unveiled later on in the campaign. He added, though, that supports in schools, such as promised $10 million to hire more mental health supports and the commitment to bring in 700 more educational assistants are also key to supporting kids with autism inside the school system.

“We know that kids need early support,” Meili said. “That’s one of the key things and one of the reasons we’re really focusing on those early years so we can get early identification.”

He also said, in response to a question, that disability supports need to be examined.

The Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC), put out a press release last week calling on all candidates to advocate for a $100 per month increase to the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program each year for the next five years “in order to reach a meaningful, socially acceptable level of income for people with disabilities”. After that point, DISC said, the benefit should be indexed to inflation.

 Meili said there is a need to review SAID funding but didn’t give any further specifics.