The province and the federal government are stepping up to provide Albertans with more affordable childcare.
Both levels of government announced an agreement last Friday that would provide $25/day childcare, an initiative first piloted in 2017.
On Monday, the province said it is directing $45 million to lower childcare costs. Families earning less than $90,000 will receive $125 per month.
The federal government stated it will be providing $290 million over four years to Alberta to improve access to affordable early learning and childcare programs. The Alberta government will be investing a one-time investment of $56 million in 2021-22 to recruit and retain early childhood workers, according to a release from the province.
The opposition NDP responded to the Friday announcement at Building Blocks Daycare in Grande Prairie, saying the program didn’t go far enough.
“The announcement today is not the federal agreement that we have seen signed in other provinces for $10/day childcare; we still do not have that in Alberta,” said Rahki Pancholi, Alberta NDP children services critic.
She said that the province continues to fail to get a deal done with the federal government for more affordable childcare.
“We really need to get progress from this provincial government in reaching a deal with the federal government,” said Pancholi.
Provincial NDP leader Rachel Notley, who was in Grande Prairie end of last week, said the program has to come sooner than later.
“The longer the UCP wait on this deal, the worst off Albertans will be,” said Notley.
“We are seeing more and more families struggling,” said Lindsay Campbell, executive director of Building Blocks.
“One of the biggest challenges families faced is the cost of childcare,” said Campbell. “Often I see the middle class being left out without any relief.”
She said the current subsidy model excludes many families; for some, the cost of childcare is more than their mortgage payments.
Campbell said that Building Blocks were “fortunate” to be part of the $25/day childcare pilot project. She added it has made a positive impact as she saw women able to enter the workforce and families able to save and invest in their children’s future.
As more people return to the workplace, Campbell said she is seeing a higher need for childcare; her facility currently has a waitlist of 250 to 300 children.
“I imagine these indications of waitlists are going to be prevalent, there’s absolutely not enough spots for the number of children that need it,” said Campbell.
The federal government is investing $30 billion over the next five years to build a Canada-wide early learning and child care system that will allow governments to work together towards lowering child care fees.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News