Alberta in talks with Ottawa to secure $10 a day child care

Alberta is negotiating with the federal government to bring a $10-a-day child-care program to the province.

On Tuesday, Rebecca Polak, spokesperson for the Ministry of Children’s Services, said negotiations have begun with the federal government.

“We look forward to a deal that ensures access to affordable, high-quality child care for working parents,” Polak said.

The provincial government agrees with the federal government that child care is an important part of the economic recovery, Polak said in an emailed statement.

“Minister Schulz has always indicated her willingness to work with the federal government on an agreement that benefits all Albertans. She has spoken with the federal minister multiple times since this funding was announced and he has indicated his willingness to work with us and ensure flexibility in any agreement,” Polak said.

Previously the provincial government has been cool on the federal child-care announcement, and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in April the plan would only support the “urban 9-5 government- and union-run institutional daycare options.”

Kenney said the program won’t account for stay-at-home parents.

“I’ve never thought it’s fair to tax who, for example, makes that sacrificial choice, in order to subsidize only one kind of care, which excludes rural families, shift workers, and many Indigenous people,” Kenney said.

Alberta’s Finance Minister Travis Toews said the program has too many strings attached to it, and expressed concern that the federal government could impose a national child-care system that may leave Alberta parents with few options.

In the past two weeks both British Columbia and Nova Scotia have signed deals with the federal government to implement a program that would bring child-care fees to an average of $10 a day in regulated centres by 2026.

In Nova Scotia the province will kick in $40 million over the five years, while Ottawa will commit $605 million.

In British Columbia, the federal government will dedicate $3.2 billion over the next five years while bringing 30,000 new spaces to the province over the next five years for children under six years old.

B.C. was the first province to sign on to the Liberal offer from the April budget, where they pledged $27.2 billion over five years to subsidize daycare spaces across the country.

A report from Campaign 2000 showed one of the best ways Alberta can help lower child poverty is by providing affordable and accessible child care. The report noted child care can cost up to 67 per cent of a household’s monthly income, “making it extremely difficult for a family to afford nutritious food, housing, education, and other expenses.”

Child care costs vary greatly across Canada, but typically infant care is more expensive than preschool-aged care because of the low staff-to-child ratio required for infants.

In Edmonton, child care costs rank in the middle of the pack, according to a 2018 study tracking child care costs (Child care fees in Canada’s big cities 2018 by Martha Friendly and David MacDonald at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

Edmonton’s median monthly child care costs come in at $975 for infants, $875 for toddlers, and $835 for preschool-aged kids.

Efforts by the former Alberta NDP government, with the help of federal funding, to address child care costs through the implementation of a $25-a-day pilot program saw limited success: Edmonton’s child care fees dropped by six per cent between 2017 and 2018 thanks to that program, but data since 2014 shows Edmonton’s costs have still increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation.

Quebec has a subsidized child care program since 1996, which has allowed the province to have one of the highest labour participation rates in the world for women between the ages of 25 and 54.

The program hit that province’s budget to the tune of $2.5 billion through direct and indirect child care subsidies _ or 0.6 per cent of Quebec’s GDP.

But it didn’t take long for Quebec to start making money off the program _ the province began making its investment back through tax revenues as mothers contributed to the economy, and as early as 2004 the program was paying for itself.

By 2008, the tax revenue coming in not only covered the program’s costs, but made Quebec an additional $246 million.

The Liberals are investing nearly $30 billion to reduce the costs of child care by 50 per cent in 2022 and bring it down to $10 a day in the next five years across the country, which will allow an estimated 240,000 parents to enter the work force.

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