Federal government to announce child care deals with N.B., N.W.T. next week

December 10, 2021
Federal government to announce child care deals with N.B., N.W.T. next week
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The federal government will announce child care deals with New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories next week, CBC has learned — leaving Ontario the only province that hasn’t yet committed to the program.

The deal with New Brunswick will be worth about $492 million over five years, while the deal with the N.W.T. will be worth about $51.1 million over the same period, a senior government official told CBC News.

Last month, the federal government tied up a child care agreement with Alberta worth $3.8 billion over five years that’s expected to create 42,500 new regulated non-profit and day home spaces by 2026.

The federal budget allocated $27.2 billion over five years to the provinces and territories, starting in the current fiscal year, to halve the cost of child care in Canada in the first year and reduce fees to $10 a day by 2025/26 while creating new spaces.

The budget also earmarked $2.5 billion for the Indigenous early learning and child care system.

Some research has shown that if fees in New Brunswick dropped to $10 a day, it would save parents in the province about $7,500 a year per child.

Parents of pre-schoolers, who now pay an average of $8,300 per child, would save about $5,700 per child per year by 2026.

The government official said the deal would help create about 3,000 child care spaces in New Brunswick and hundreds in N.W.T.

Most of the spaces being funded in New Brunswick will be in the public, not-for-profit sector but there will be funding for a limited number of government-regulated private spaces as well, the official said.

Ontario now the only holdout province

Ontario has 37.8 per cent of Canada’s population of children up to age 12, making its share of the five-year package worth about $10.28 billion.

Ontario’s current annual budget for child care is $2.28 billion. That figure does not include the province’s $3.6 billion in annual spending on full-day kindergarten for four and five year-olds, something that most other provinces do not provide.

One of the sticking points in talks between the federal and Ontario governments is the province’s attempt to get the Liberal government to acknowledge that by providing full-day kindergarten, Ontario is paying for what otherwise would be day care costs for the parents of four and five year olds.

Provincial officials say the proposed federal funding simply won’t be enough to get the cost of child care in Ontario down to $10 a day.

The federal official said that talks with Ontario are moving in the right direction but challenges remain in some contentious areas.

Talks with Nunavut were described by the official as “very well advanced” but temporarily stalled by the change of government in the territory.

The federal government estimates the COVID-19 pandemic drove at least 16,000 women out of the job market altogether, while the male labour force grew by 91,000 over the same period.

Before the implementation of the Quebec Educational Childcare Act in 1997, the labour force participation rate for women in Quebec was four percentage points lower than in the rest of Canada. Today, that rate is four points higher than the Canadian average.

A 2017 International Monetary Fund working paper said that if the current gap between male and female labour force participation in the Canadian economy was closed, it would amount to a GDP boost of about four per cent.

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