By Justin Seward
The Alberta and Canadian governments reached a child care agreement on Nov. 15.
This Made-in-Alberta child-care deal will allow the province flexibility to meet unique needs of Alberta families, help drive economic recovery and supports working parents by lowering child care fees.
The agreement between the two governments will ensure that $3.8 billion will be committed by the federal government towards the expansion of accessible affordable high quality early learning and child care to Alberta families.
With the plan, will come reduced fees for parents of children aged 0 to Kindergarten by half early next years and $10 per day child care by 2026.
Alberta’s Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz weighed in on what this will means moving forward for rural communities during an Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association Zoom meeting later that day after the announcement.
“When it comes to the specific communities that are going to benefit from things like space creation, we’ve got to work through that process,” said Schulz.
“So, we’re going to start doing that work right now. This week I’m at AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) conference, we’re also reaching out to RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta) and municipalities that we know have a real need for spaces to be created in those communities. And then we’ll go through an expression of interest process to make sure we have providers that can offer high quality child care and deliver on creating those spaces with that funding.”
Schulz said the government wants to do that work over the next couple of months and preferably in the next budget year, the government will be able to throw those dollars out to get those spaces created.
“This involves all levels of child care,” said Schulz.
“We are looking at partnerships around the private operators, non-profit operators as well as day homes. We know sometimes in rural communities especially, that’s a great option, especially when it comes to space. So, we’ve already started to work on that through our expression of interest program and we’ll be continuing to build on that over the next couple of months.”
Medicine Hat YMCA CEO Sharon Hayward thinks the announcement will have tremendous benefit for families in southeast Alberta.
“We’ve been advocating behind the scenes for a program like this for a long time and to see it come to fruition makes us very happy,” said Hayward.
“We see child care as an essential service and know that affordable child care means that the economy will be strengthened and more people can go to work knowing that their children are well cared for.”
Hayward said this announcement will allow for any licensed programs in rural areas to fall under the same fee structure.
The Government of Alberta can start rolling out some of the affordability dollars and parent subsidies beginning in 2022.
In addition to private spaces, the agreement includes a plan to add at least 42,500 new licensed non-profit and day home child-care spaces over the next five years. This will support Alberta’s economic recovery. There are also dollars dedicated to increase spaces to support children with specific learning, linguistic, cultural and other needs, as well as overnight child care.
Alberta’s government knows that quality care starts with quality educators, which is why it negotiated $300 million in funding for professional development, training and improved certification levels of the early childhood educator workforce.