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Premier of the Northwest Territories Caroline Cochrane participates in an announcement on early learning and child care in Northwest Territories, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, on Dec. 15, 2021.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The federal government has agreed to a $51-million deal to slash child-care fees and add 300 new spaces in the Northwest Territories.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Caroline Cochrane finalized the deal in a meeting Wednesday in Ottawa.

The Liberal budget in April promised to spend $30-billion over five years to realize a national daycare program that would cut fees in half by the end of 2022, and to an average of $10 a day within five years.

The latest deal is the 11th to be signed with provinces and territories, and the Northwest Territories government is planning to accelerate the cost-cutting so that fees are slashed in half by the end of March.

The deal will also add 300 new licensed spaces by 2026 to be provided only by not-for-profit child-care centres and home daycares. It includes a retention incentive to keep child-care workers in the territory, and a new wage grid to ensure better salaries.

“Child care is good for parents, it’s good for kids, but it’s also good for the economy,” Mr. Trudeau said. He added the pandemic highlighted how critical quality and affordable child care is to ensuring parents can work.

The deal could mean a family in the territory will eventually save almost $10,000 a year in child-care fees.

Premier Cochrane said the deal will not only make child care more affordable, in some communities it will mean access to licensed child care for the very first time.

“One of the best investments that governments can make to influence a child’s life is to provide families with the option to access high quality early learning in their community,” she said.

British Columbia was the first province to ink a deal in early July, worth $3.2-billion over five years, and eight provinces and now two territories have followed suit. More than $16.8-billion has been allocated to the deals so far over the next five years.

Ontario and Nunavut are the only holdouts and Mr. Trudeau said after meeting Tuesday with Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok that he expects a deal with that territory will be finalized early in the new year.

Talks are continuing this week with Ontario, but Premier Doug Ford has said he wants more money to keep the program sustainable beyond the five-year start up, and recognition for the $3.6-billion the province already spends to provide full-day kindergarten.

Seven provinces and the Northwest Territories offer full-day kindergarten for five-year-olds. Ontario, Nova Scotia and the NWT also offer it to four-year-olds.

Mr. Trudeau is scheduled to speak with Mr. Ford by phone Thursday.

The April budget promised more than $9-billion annually after the first five years to keep the programs going.

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