Ottawa, Alberta reach deal for ‘affordable, quality child care,’ province says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press )

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are expected to announce details of a child-care agreement Monday morning.

A deal for “affordable, quality child care” has been reached, the province said in a news release Sunday evening.

Trudeau, along with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould, will be joined by Kenney and Alberta Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz at a news conference in Edmonton scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. MT on Monday.

Ottawa announced $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion ongoing with the aim to create a quality and affordable child-care system as part of this year’s budget, unveiled last April.

‘A game changer’

The federal budget stipulates any new plan must meet three criteria:

  • Funds must go “primarily” to non-profit early learning centres.
  • Funds must pay for the training of early childhood educators.
  • The money must be spent to halve average child-care fees by the end of 2022 and reduce child-care costs to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

While she was not aware of details of the agreement ahead of Monday’s news conference, Nicki Dublenko, chair of the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta, said $10-a-day child care would be transformative.

“That in itself is a game-changer because [there are] people, typically women, that want to work, but they just can’t afford it, especially with multiple children. All of their pay is going towards child care,” Dublenko said.

“They talk about child care as being like mortgage payments that families have until their children get access to school.”

Child care in crisis, Dublenko says

Families can pay upward of $1,200 a month per child in some areas of the province, especially in parts of northern Alberta, Dublenko said.

Dublenko said the Ottawa deal could not have come soon enough, as child care in the province has been “in a state of crisis” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some programs are still really suffering from low enrolment and the high costs from the pandemic,” she said.  “Families are really needing the support, and child-care programs are really needing the support to stay functioning.”

The Alberta government launched negotiations with Ottawa in July, before the federal election was called.

In August, Kenney was demanding the federal government give the province unconditional funding for early learning and child care similar to what Quebec has negotiated.

The government representatives at the news conference will also be joined by Shannon Doram, president and CEO of the YMCA Calgary, and Heather Gomme, owner and director of It’s a Child’s World Family Day Home Agency.

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