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

–Some commercial operators mobilize to oppose change.

Child care advocates welcomed Nova Scotia’s recently announced plan to transform how licensed child care services are funded and managed, but the province’s commercial providers say the proposed changes will make it more difficult for them to control their businesses including how much they charge parents and what they pay their staff.

When the Nova Scotia and federal governments announced last July that they reached an agreement providing the province $604.9 million in federal funding for early learning and child care over the next five years, the provincial government signaled that big changes in the funding and management of licensed child care would be necessary to bring down parent fees and, at the same time, raise the quality of programs and increase the supply of licensed spaces. 

The province announced it would establish a central organization to manage all regulated child care in the province including the expansion of the system. Also, the province made it clear that it would develop a government framework to increase pay and benefits for early childhood educators. 

More details on the province’s plan to implement the federal-provincial child care agreement came on January 13, 2022 when commercial providers were told that if they want to be part of revamped system they will not be allowed to charge more than the parent fees set by the province, and must pay staff according to a province-wide compensation framework. All commercial and not-for-profit operators that choose to be part of the province’s system will receive sufficient public funding to allow for lower fees, higher staff compensation and other quality improvements.

“Nova Scotia’s plan to transform early learning and child care is consistent with the commitment set out in the Canada-Nova Scotia child care funding agreement to build a quality early learning and child care system,” says Nikki Jamieson, the coordinator of Child Care Now’s Nova Scotia chapter. 

“Our hope is that existing for-profit providers will join the public system so that families using their child care centres can benefit from the quality improvements ahead as well as the important fee reductions that will be retroactive to January 1, 2022,” says Jamieson. “We support the government’s decision to expand the child care system by focusing on new not-for-profit spaces, but at the same time we think it would be damaging if even one existing commercial operator decides to close spaces rather than accept the important changes ahead for child care.”

Jamieson says the plan is about improving the system for the benefit of children and families and that while change is inevitably disruptive it is important to remember that the status quo was not working very well for either commercial or not-for-providers who were having to operate with insufficient funding and other support from government.

“The government’s plan will bring parent fees down for all operators in the system to $10.00 per day and finally increase the wages of staff, and require that all children are welcome. Also the government will increase operational funding significantly to make these changes. It makes sense that operators receiving public funds be required to follow the rules of the new system,” says Jamieson.