The province announced a plan Wednesday to create 1,500 new licensed daycare spaces by the end of 2022.
It's all part of a four-year funding arrangement with Ottawa that will see the federal government contribute $605 million to create more affordable daycare — particularly in under-served parts of Nova Scotia.
Karina Gould, federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development, along Becky Druhan — Nova Scotia's minister of Education and Early Childhood Development — made the announcement at the East Preston Daycare.
That centre alone will add eight new infant spaces at its existing site and 60 new infant and toddler spaces at its new location at the Akoma Family Centre in Dartmouth.
"Spaces will be added in communities all across the province," Druhan said. "Communities like Ingonish, Shelburne, Bay St. Lawrence, Lockeport Tusket and Pubnico just to name a few."
Druhan says it will be affordable, too.
In April, the province announced a 25 per cent reduction in fees through the Nova Scotia Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement. Another fee reduction is expected later in the year.
"In a few short years parents in Nova Scotia will pay $10 per day for daycare," Druhan said.
The challenge, though, may be staffing. Druhan says in order to create the 1,500 new spaces the not-for-profit licensed daycare operators will need to hire 300 early childhood educators.
"And we actually have 300 [early childhood educators] slated to graduate in the [Nova Scotia Community College] course this year. So that aligns really nicely," the minister said.
Those who operate private, for-profit daycares doubt that will happen.
"I wish I shared their optimism," says Joe Kinsman, operator of Becky's Daycare in Waverly.
Even with his staff of 40 early childhood educators he says he's unable to run his daycare at capacity. He has room for 246 children but simply can't find the staff to work there.
"Even if every single one of those [NSCC] students graduates and takes a job in a licensed childcare facility there is still a significant shortage of trained staff across the sector," Kinsman said.
"And we know that because I am part of the working group that includes approximately 200 private operators who are all saying the same thing. We can't find the staff. The staff aren't there."
Druhan said they'll be able to meet staffing targets by upgrading the skills of 200 staff currently working in the system.
The province is also working on a new compensation package for early childhood educators — both in private daycares and the not-for-profit sector. That new package is expected in the fall. The province will also offer existing early child-care educators free training, new bursary programs for students and a continuation of the Afrocentric training program.
The province is promising to create 9,500 daycare spaces over the next four years.
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