Alberta wants more autonomy and choice for parents to be funded through the proposed national child care program announced in Monday’s federal budget.
Budget 2021 is the first federal budget to be announced in two years and features an ambitious national child care strategy aimed at boosting women’s participation in the labour market and reducing fees for child care across the country.
According to the federal government, they will invest $30 billion over the next five years to develop a “Canada-wide, community-based early learning and child care system,” with a goal of reducing child care fees to an average of $10 per day in regulated spaces.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the plan is as much about meeting the needs of Canadian parents as it is about setting children up for success.
“Investing in early child learning and establishing Canada-wide child care will make life more affordable for families, create jobs, strengthen our economy, get women back into the workforce, and grow the middle class. We will get it done,” said Trudeau.
In a media release, the federal government cited studies showing a $1.50 to $2.80 return on each dollar spent on early childhood education.
The funding announced Monday also focuses on creating 3,300 child care spaces specifically for Indigenous children.
Premier Jason Kenney criticized the federal plan for being too much of a cookie-cutter plan which he said doesn’t meet the needs of many families in the province.
“The federal policy, apparently excludes participation from childcare businesses who operate as for profits. They’re a critical part of the childcare infrastructure here in Alberta,” said Kenney.
He said it’s not fair to only subsidize one type of child care when most families use a mix of solutions including being a single income family, using private day homes, and institutional daycares.
“We will be pushing, I hope with other provinces for maximum flexibility,” said Kenney.
According to Alberta Minister of Finance Travis Toews, the province absolutely understands the importance of affordable and accessible child care. He said the province would like to get on board with the federal funding, but develop their own strategy that meets the needs of Alberta parents.
“Canada is a very large, diverse nation. And every province no doubt will have some specific realities that their programming should really accommodate,” said Toews.
He said the struggle for child care is not unique in Alberta, citing the challenges of shift work and rural living.
“Alberta families need flexible options in terms of obtaining childcare provisions. Our recommendation, in fact our ask of the federal government, would be to provide Alberta the funding and we will work together with Alberta families,” said Toews.
On April 1, Alberta’s $25 per day child care program was replaced with a subsidy providing a larger benefit to those eligible for the program, but reducing the maximum annual income threshold for the household to $75,000.
Without the subsidy, some families in the Lakeland saw their child care fees nearly double.