Alberta’s new $10/day childcare programme excludes some families

While $10 a day is better than what have now, there are a bunch of caveats.

Earlier this week, the Alberta government had announced that they had signed an agreement with the federal government on $10 a day child care.

This is a huge deal, making it easier for working families to make ends meet while also being able to afford to get to work.

But there are some things you should know.

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First, it’s not immediate.

The announcement said that Alberta will take a gradual approach to reach $10 a day child care, starting with cutting childcare fees in half in “early 2022”.

A federal announcement on the agreement, however, said that the 50% reduction may not occur until the end of 2022. Either way, each year will see further reductions, with the eventual goal of hitting $10 a day 5 years from now.

That $10 a day covers only children who are Kindergarten age or younger. That means it won’t include out of school care for children whose parents don’t finish their work shift before the school day ends.

The federal government has promised nearly $4 billion in funding for this childcare programme, but that’s over a 5-year period.

This agreement reported the creation of 42,500 new regulated early learning and childcare spaces, but once again, that’s over the next 5 years. However, the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta reports that the goal is to have 12,000 of the spaces created over the next year.

So, at some point between now and 2026, the federal government will spend $3.8 billion on 42,500 spaces for families with children too young to be in grade 1.

The federal announcement reported that these spaces will be specifically licenced not-for-profit, public, and family-based childcare providers. AECEA claims that Alberta can reach the targets for childcare spaces only through licensing/regulating family day homes that are currently unlicensed.

There is currently no plan to include for-profit providers in those new 42,500 spaces; although, the two governments are creating a Canada-Alberta Implementation Committee to explore for-profit childcare services being included in the new programme.

The provincial announcement claimed that the province will continue offering its wage top-up programme, which is $2.14 an hour for level 1 early childhood educators, $4.05 an hour for level 2, and $6.63 an hour for level 3. This funding is given to the employer, who then is supposed to distribute it to the workers.

According to the AECEA, $300 million of the $3.8 billion is set aside for early childhood educators. However, that money will focus on “recruitment, retention, development, and training”, not on increasing wages.

During oral question period this week, Rakhi Pancholi, the official opposition critic for Children’s Services claimed that during a town hall on the issue held on the 15th, it was revealed that wages for early childhood educators in the province rank in the bottom three in the country. Despite this, Pancholi claimed that none of this extra $300 million for these workers will be used to increase the wage grid used to determine their compensation.

Finally, Pancholi also claimed that Rebecca Shulz, the minister of Children’s Services, told educators in that town hall that funding for providers will be based on enrollment, not on the number of spaces available. Unfortunately, enrollment is down because of COVID-19 and the cost of care, which means this funding model will complicate the ability for the province to create an adequate number of childcare spaces.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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