All-day kindergarten was cast as key issue in next year's Ontario election as Premier Dalton McGuinty warned parents Tuesday that voting Conservative would jeopardize the program's expansion to all elementary schools.

The campaign for the October 2011 election doesn't officially begin until after next Labour Day. That didn't deter McGuinty, who got the ball rolling a full year early by throwing down the gauntlet over all-day learning for four- and five-year-olds.

“It's not too soon for us to consider the choice we're going to have next October,” McGuinty said after joining students at Mount Joy Public School for the first day of classes.

“(Voters can choose to) continue to make progress, whether it's test scores or graduation rates or full-day kindergarten, or they can put a stop to that and they can turn the clock back.”

Yesterday marked the beginning of the all-day kindergarten program in 600 Ontario schools — although not at Mount Joy.

The program, which will expand to 800 schools next year, will cost the province $1.5 billion a year when it's fully implemented in all the province's 4,000 elementary schools by 2015.

McGuinty warned voters that the Conservative's view full-day kindergarten as an “unnecessary frill.”

“I disagree fundamentally.”

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