The New Brunswick Liberal Party is going into the next provincial election with a promise to spend significantly more public money on early childhood education and child care using, in part, funds received through its bilateral early learning and child care agreement worth $30 million annually over 3 years.
The cornerstone of the Liberal plan was announced in January 2018 when the government said it would be creating a network of 300 early learning centres by 2020 to serve children aged 0-5. The early learning centres will:
- commit to a low parent fee policy
- serve all demographics, including all levels of ability and diverse needs
- provide more infant and toddler spaces (goal of 200 new spaces, 60% in Anglophone sector; 40% in Francophone)
- receive increased public funding (includes one-time quality improvement grant, an annual quality grant of $2.50 per space per day for children aged 2-5)
The Liberals also said they would improve parent-fee subsidies to provide free under-5 child care for low-income families attending an early learning centre. Low-income is defined as a gross household income of $37,500 or less. Families with higher incomes will receive partial subsidies based on their income with no family paying more than 20 per cent of gross annual income.
The Liberals also committed to increasing qualifications of staff through a 90-hour online training course.
In addition, the government announced that it will invest $28 million from fiscal year 2019-20 to 2022-23 to raise wages from $16/hour to $19/hour for trained ECE staff. This will be in addition to the Quality Improvement Funding Support funding that tops-up staff wages: $3.15 per hour for untrained staff and $5.00 per hour for trained staff.
What advocates are saying
Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director of Child Care Now, said the Liberal government’s child care plan shows that pushing for policy change actually works and congratulated child care advocates for their success.
“It is a good start but with more pressure applied on all political parties during the election campaign we can try to get commitments for even more significant reforms,” she told a meeting of New Brunswick child care advocates at a meeting in Moncton in late June.
Jody Dallaire, a child care advocate and the current co-chair of the New Brunswick Women’s Council agreed, saying that the New Brunswick government’s independent task force had recommended even more sweeping changes including measures to strengthen non-profit early childhood education programs.
“New Brunswick currently spends $1,572 per regulated child care space, whereas the Canadian average is $3,405,” Dallaire explained. “Programs need sufficient and direct funding to bring down the fees for all parents and improve the quality of care across-the-board.”
Dallaire called on all political parties to make child care an issue in the election and to make clear commitments to universal entitlement, linguistic duality, public planning and public management, and to public spending to the non-profit and public sectors.
New Brunswick’s upcoming provincial election is being held September 24, 2018.