Some child-care advocates in Prince Edward Island say they're excited about the promise of a government-funded affordable child-care program.
The province is partnering with the federal government to provide $10-a-day child care by the end of 2024. The plan was announced Tuesday in Charlottetown by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"It's a long time coming," said Tracy Doyle, owner of Magic Moments Early Learning Centre in Tignish.
"Our parents are very excited."
Trudeau said on Tuesday that there will be 452 new child-care and early learning spaces in P.E.I. within the next two years. The federal government plans to offer child care for $10 a day to the rest of Canada by 2025 to 2026.
'Disparity in wages'
P.E.I. Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he was "really pleased" to hear Tuesday's announcement but believes the initiative may indicate an upcoming federal election.
"It's a well-worn tradition for federal parties, particularly those who were in power prior to a potential election to open the bank vaults and do stuff like this," he said.
However, Bevan-Baker said regardless of the federal government's reason behind the initiative, it's still a positive step for P.E.I. to be receiving funds for child care. Bevan-Baker's concern is how the provincial government will manage those funds.
"We have an administration here which unfortunately has a habit of bungling the implementation of programs, whether we're talking about mobile mental health units or midwifery or the expanded dental program for low-income Islanders and seniors."
Bevan-Baker is also concerned about what he called the "disparity in wages" between early childhood educators (ECEs) and other education workers like teaching assistants.
Bevan-Baker said he's heard from the provincial minister of education and officials in the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, who said some of the incoming federal funds will be dedicated to increasing wages of ECEs. But Bevan-Baker said those increases are "probably not enough."
"As long as we have that disparity, recruitment and retention of early childhood educators is going to be a chronic problem here."
Trudeau's government is not the first to promise affordable child care to Canadians.
In 1993, the Liberals under Jean Chrétien proposed funding most of a new national child-care program, which was never realized. In 2005, Paul Martin's Liberal government committed $5 billion to develop enhanced child-care systems. However, Martin's government was defeated in the subsequent election and the deals were cancelled.
Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said despite this history, she's still optimistic the latest federal child-care initiative will roll out as planned.
"I'm sorry that it took a pandemic for us to see the urgent need for this," said Ledwell.
She also said the provincial and federal governments will have to make sure $10-a-day child care caters to the specific needs of families in rural communities, those of linguistic and cultural minorities, and children with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Ledwell said women's organizations, like the one she works for, have been advocating for affordable child care for decades. She said the new initiative will have a major impact on the lives of women, who continue to carry most child-care responsibilities in Island families.
Doyle agrees that the initiative, if executed as planned, will be a great financial benefit to Island parents.
"When you're looking at a family unit that may have two or three children, you know, looking at the cost of child care and parents needing to choose, 'Do I go back into the workforce? Do I stay home?'" Doyle said.
"I think it's definitely going to support the families."
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