Last week, the Alberta government announced that it’d be allocating $9.7 million in grants to child care providers to create over 1,500 new child care spaces.
Well, it turns out that this is kind of a weird announcement.
In Children’s Services | Business Plan 2021–24—released just last month, we find this statement:
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Recognizing the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and a downturn in the economy, current focus is to maintain the safe operation of child care programs, with anticipated future growth in child care spaces influenced by a combination of market forces and government supports.Children’s Services | Business Plan 2021–24, p. 15
Then it goes on to say that after a 5% increase in total licensed child care spaces in 2019–2020, they were planning a 0% increase this year and a 2% increase in both 2022–2023 and 2023–2024.
No word on what the increase was for last year; although they predicted last February to increase it by 4%. Not sure if they actually did.
Interestingly enough, last year they had forecasted a 3% increase for this year and 3% for next year. Now, they’ve changed it to 0% for this year and 2% for next year. We went from a total 2-year increase of 6.1% to a total increase of just 2%.
This compares to the 4.0%, 6.6%, 6.9%, and 5.4% increases during each year under the NDP.
Why bother saying you won’t increase child care spaces because of the pandemic and the economic downturn only to announce less than a month later that you’ll be providing grants to create up to 1,558 new spaces?
Even so, how does this number compare to previous year increases? Well, as I said, last year’s increases are unavailable, but here are the increases between 2016 and 2020:
|# of new spaces|
Yet this year, we’re going to increase it to only 1,558 new spaces? We went from an average of 7,529 new spaces a year to only 1,558. And that’s a maximum. There’s no guarantee that’s how many we’ll actually get.
Any new spaces will be created as providers expand capacity through renovating existing spaces, opening new daycares and day homes, or providing overnight child care.
Last week’s announcement goes on to state:
Through the Early Learning and Child Care agreement with the federal government, these 1,500 new and flexible child care spaces in licensed programs will create about 200 direct jobs for child care providers.
So, it seems that this funding may not even be coming from the provincial government, but from the federal government.
This agreement, which was signed in 2017 while the NDP were still in power, commits the federal government to sending over $45 million every year for early learning and child care.
You can see the number of maximum spaces allocated to each region here.