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NDP promises child care; Tories would stop selling cigars to kids

The Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party each unveiled major child care plans on Wednesday, while Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper promised to stop selling cigars to children.

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion promised to keep the $100 monthly cheques instituted under the Conservatives while adding child tax credits and an annual supplement for lower income families. He also said he would invest an additional $1 billion for new child care spaces.

NDP leader Jack Layton pledged an initial $1.45 billion for 150,000 new spaces with more to come if finances permit. The goal, he said, is to have room for every child who needs day care.

The NDP plan was a hit with the Code Blue for Child Care campaign, which also praised the Green Party for endorsing universal child care. The coalition expressed disappointment that the Liberals were not offering more, but saved its harshest criticism for the government.

“The Conservatives simply have no child care policy and are stuck in a backward era,” Code Blue spokesperson Shellie Bird said in a press release. “Stephen Harper doesn't understand the changing economic and social realities of families.”

Earlier this week, the Tories promised improved benefits for self-employed parents but offered nothing to beef up child care. This emphasis on parental leave rather than care options reflects Conservative enthusiasm for traditional family roles, according to Paul Kershaw, an expert in family policy at the University of British Columbia.

He believes the Liberals are trying to strike a balance between the recent Conservative announcement and popular monthly cheques on the one hand and the NDP’s call for universal child care on the other.

While Kershaw is all for improving parental leave, he says it is in the area of child care infrastructure that Canada “stands out as an international laggard.” Universal access would be very pricey, requiring $8 or $9 billion in additional investment annually, but he believes it would go a long way to promoting gender equality and early childhood development while supplying the economy with labour.

“It’s kind of the social policy innovation for a generation,” he said.

Harper, who back in 2006 pledged to create 125,000 new child care spaces over five years, resorted to countering his two main rivals’ plans with accusations they would lead the country back to budgetary deficits.

But just to show he cares about kids, Harper also promised to get tough on flavoured cigarillos

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