Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Heather Stefanson showed up at a Winnipeg daycare Friday with a big treat — $10-a-day child care for Manitoba families starting April 2 — which is three years ahead of schedule.
The surprise announcement was hailed by parents, the child-care sector and the chamber of commerce.
“Today is a great reminder of what we can do when we all work together,” Trudeau said at the South Winnipeg YMCA daycare.
In 2021, the federal and provincial governments signed a five-year, $1.2-billion agreement to cut parent fees to $10 per day by 2026 and increase the number of spaces by retaining, recruiting and training more early childhood educators.
“As a government, we recognize that access to affordable and high-quality child care is essential for Manitobans to be able to participate in the workforce, support their family and play an active role in the growth of our communities and our economy,” Stefanson said.
“We have gone above and beyond that commitment and have done so three years ahead of schedule,” the premier said.
The $10-a-day maximum fee is for children 12 and under who attend licensed, funded early-learning and child-care centres and homes.
Prior to the news conference, the premier and prime minister sat on benches at the daycare’s indoor playground chatting with parents while one preschooler crawled under the seat shared by the first ministers. The parents talked about affordability and how the deal has already lowered their fees.
“Brenda and Peter told me they are now saving hundreds of dollars a month — savings that can be used for groceries, other bills and after-school activities. It’s making a real difference in their lives,” Trudeau told reporters. “This is part of our plan to make life more affordable for the middle class.”
The Manitoba Child Care Association, which has lobbied for more affordable child care, welcomed the accelerated timeline to lower the fees.
“Today is great news for families,” said executive director Jodie Kehl.
“Manitoba fees have long been touted as the second-lowest in the country, (but) they were far too expensive for many families. So, a maximum of $10 a day, with some families paying considerably less than that, that’s a good step in the right direction,” she said.
Lower fees should help to address labour shortages — one of the leading issues for chamber of commerce members.
“Businesses have long recognized the challenges posed by the lack of access to affordable child care for their employees,” Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Loren Remillard said.
“By getting to $10-a-day daycare, it makes child care more accessible, more affordable for more people, which will allow them to enter the workplace or return to the workplace,” he said.
“It provides a bit more of an incentive for people to decide to go back to work if they have that quality child care in place,” said Chuck Davidson, head of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “So you know, when every business that I’ve talked to is looking for workers, this can only help,” Davidson said.
Lower fees are expected to drive up demand for regulated spaces since thousands are waiting for regulated non-profit child-care spaces, said Kehl.
That’s to be expected, said Trudeau.
“We are aware that we need to see more spaces created and we’re going to continue to work and encourage Manitoba to create those, but also make sure those spaces are where they need to be across the country.”
Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko said the province has offered tuition rebates of $5,000 a year for early childhood education students and has an expression of interest to expand post-secondary training options for early childhood educators. It invites post-secondary institutions to apply for funding to develop new programs to train child-care professionals. The goal is to train 1,000 child-care assistants and 2,000 early-childhood educators by 2026, Ewasko said.
Workers have been underpaid and undervalued far too long, and the province needs to do more to retain and recruit them, said Kehl.
“I think before we start talking about recruitment, we have to fix retention,” she said.
“We still have a sector here that (has) a bit of a revolving door. We need to make sure we are stabilizing and supporting the current early learning child-care workforce.”
The new wage grid, introduced by the province in the summer, shows trained early-childhood educators start at $35,000 a year, said Kehl.
“We have to start really thinking… more high level in terms of recruitment: 2,000 post-secondary seats aren’t going to fill themselves,” she said.
“We have to really think about what is going to draw new individuals to want to be early childhood educators. So, they understand that the work they’re doing is important in children’s lives, in communities, but that they’re being well compensated.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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