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

Letter to Ministers Freeland, Morneau and Hussen on child care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

The Honourable Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Finance

The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

March 19, 2020

Dear Ministers,

We congratulate and thank you and your Cabinet colleagues for the important support initiatives announced yesterday morning. Clearly, your government is deeply committed to helping Canadian workers and their families through the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are grateful that you pledged to keep finding ways to provide more relief in the coming days and weeks.

It is in response to this pledge that we write to alert you to the urgent needs of Canada’s Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) sector, and to plead that the federal government immediately convene discussions with the provinces and territories to develop a coordinated, federally-supported ELCC plan to:

(a) ensure this fragile sector survives the pandemic, and

(b) put in place safe, free, emergency licenced child care for those parents who are required to work, and who have preschool and/or school-age children, but who cannot find appropriate child care arrangements now that regular licensed child care programs have been shut down in almost all parts of the country.

Federal funding for such a joint government plan is imperative:

  • Federal funds are required to help pay for emergency child care programs for children between the ages of 0 and 12, and to ensure that such programs are safe for children and staff. Specifically, federal funding is necessary to help:
    • set up age appropriate programs in appropriate locations and settings,
    • pay sufficiently high wages and benefits to recruit qualified staff,
    • cover other essential operating costs such as cleaning, screening and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Federal funds are required to help provinces/territories to sustain licensed child care centers and family home based care providers during the pandemic-related shut downs. Licensed child care centres and other licensed providers do not have the capacity to weather closures. They depend on parent fees to cover their ongoing costs, yet parents (many now without their regular income) cannot be expected to continue to pay for services they are no longer receiving. Child care providers do not have sufficient reserves to keep paying employees, or to settle other bills that must be paid regardless of closure (for rent, heat, insurance, etc.).

Your government has told Canadians many times that you understand the central role ELCC plays in supporting labour force participation and in strengthening Canada’s economy, and you have worked with your provincial and territorial partners to improve access to ELCC programs. We know you will not stand by and watch the very precarious child care sector fall apart. We know you will do everything you can to sustain the sector through the pandemic in recognition that licensed child care programs must be there for the Canadian workforce when it is safe for all of us to go back to work. We are confident that you will work with the provinces and territories, and Canada’s national child care organizations, to determine what financial assistance the ELCC sector needs.

We look forward to your response to the problems we have outlined and our recommendations for federal action.

Yours sincerely,

Morna Ballantyne
Executive Director
Child Care Now
613-791-3411

c.c. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada