It's time for child care for all - Des services de garde éducatifs pour tous

The federal government’s promise to build a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care system is moving forward at a fast clip as more and more provinces sign agreements with the Government of Canada to lower parent fees and expand the supply of regulated not-for-profit and public child care, says Child Care Now’s Executive Director Morna Ballantyne.

“Child Care advocates have been saying for the past thirty years that federal leadership and funding would be required to bring transformative change to child care which is why we were elated that the 2021 federal budget made a $34 billion early learning and child care spending commitment,” said Ballantyne. 

The federal government has reached child care agreements with BC, Nova Scotia, Yukon Territory, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. While the provisions of each agreement vary to some degree, all the jurisdictions other than Quebec have agreed to use the federal funds to (a) lower parent fees by 50 per cent by the end of 2022 and to $10 a day by 2025-26 or sooner; (b) improve the wages and working conditions of early childhood educators, and (c) publicly fund the expansion of not-profit and public child care. Quebec, which already has set parent fees at $8.50 a day for child care provided through the province’s subsidized system, will use its federal transfer of $6 billion to address low wages in the sector, significantly expand availability of its subsidized programs, and recover some of the province’s spending on child care, which far exceeds that of other jurisdictions. 

“We are very pleased the child care agreements set a timetable for reducing parent fees and for expanding the supply of regulated child care, and that they recognize the urgent need to raise the wages of child care staff in order to recruit and retain early childhood educators,” said Ballantyne. 

She cautioned however that the agreements are only a gateway to building a comprehensive publicly funded and managed child care system aimed at making child care universally affordable and accessible across the country. 

“We want the provinces and territories to use the very large amount of federal money to completely change how child care in Canada is organized and we especially want the role of governments to assume responsibility for funding and managing the supply of early learning and child care,” said Ballantyne. “Of course we applaud the commitment to bring down parent fees and expand the availability of early learning and child care but we also need governments to be accountable for bringing stability to the child care sector, for raising the quality of the programs, for ensuring that all children are included, and for making sure that programs are available and accessible particularly to communities and populations who have been left out by the current market-based approach to the provision of child care.”

Over the next months, Child Care Now will be working with all its diverse partners and supporters across the country to convince all provinces and territories to enter into a funding agreement with the Government of Canada. Also, Child Care Now will continue to press all levels of government to stop the patchwork approach to fixing the problems that come with market-based child care and instead build a system of fully publicly funded and managed early learning and child care.