By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Southern Alberta Newspapers
As of Monday, Nov. 15, Alberta has successfully negotiated an agreement with the federal government on the expansion of accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care. This will reduce fees for parents of zero to kindergarten-aged children by an average of half next year and an average of $10 over the next five.
Through this agreement, $3.8 billion will be invested into child care over the next five years with $2.865 billion to lower child care fees for Alberta parents; $240.64 million to increase the number of child care spaces; $202.6 million to develop and fund child care options to support vulnerable and diverse populations as well as children with extra needs; and $306.16 million to support licensed programs and certified educators in offering high-quality support for families in their communities.
Child care accessibility will be getting an extremely large expansion over the next five years as well, with at least 42,500 new and licensed child care spaces, ensuring flexibility for families requiring drop-in or 24-hours child care and supporting children with specific learning, linguistic, cultural and other needs.
“The has a lot more flexibility to respond to the needs of Alberta parents,” noted Premier Jason Kenney. “This province is different and one of the ways it is, is we have the largest percentage of childcare spaces offered by private operators and they did not qualify in the initial deal that was offered. We didn’t want to exclude all these parents and we got what we believe was a much better arrangement that reflects the diversity of choices of Alberta parents and I don’t think any responsible government takes a take it or leave it approach.”
Alberta’s NDP caucus has also noted that while Kenney did negotiate for better deals over the past months — the newly signed deal was ‘almost identical’ to the proposal the NDP presented in July.
“Albertans who continued to speak up on the importance of quality and affordable child care should be taking a victory lap today,” said Rakhi Pancholi, Alberta NDP Critic for Children’s Services. “I’ve heard from thousands of Alberta parents in the last month alone saying they needed $10/day child care. They are the reason we saw this deal signed today.”
Additionally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added the federal government recognizes there are different child care systems delivering things in ways that suit the communities in the regions they serves and that’s why they came to the table with an openness to flexibility.
“We were firm on the goals we shared for $10 a day over five years and cutting fees in half over the next year. But the creation of over 40 thousand spaces in the Alberta plan is the kind of thing that when orders of government work together — we can achieve very big things.”