Alberta government announces childcare deal advancement with few details

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Alberta’s UCP government announced it has opened up a federal grant now pegged at $28 million to support more childcare spaces in the province.

It’s part of a $3.8 billion-deal first announced in late 2021 that aims to cut average fees across the country down to $10 a day by 2026, as well as create 42,500 not-for-profit spaces in Alberta.

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Both governments announced in January that up to 22,500 additional for-profit childcare spaces may become eligible for funding supports over the next three years, for a total of 68,700 new licensed childcare spaces covered under the deal by the end of March 2026, as part of a pending cost-control framework.

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Children and Family Services Minister Searle Turton said at a Tuesday announcement that the average childcare cost is now about $15 per day, and it’s up to the province to allocate that federal money as part of a grant.

“We’re very excited as the next step to create affordable childcare spaces here in the province with the announcement here today,” said Turton.

Still, an agreement that will guide how private operators might take advantage of the federal program is still in the works, Turton said.

“The cost control framework discussions are actually going to be happening over the next six months,” he said. The Children and Family Services Ministry did not respond to questions from Postmedia as of press time Tuesday.

UCP ‘dragging their feet’: NDP

Diana Batten, the NDP critic for childcare, children and family services, said she just wants to see the deal done with appropriate services, no matter who is the provider.

“It feels like they’re dragging their feet. The fact that we have an announcement to basically just re-announce something, versus providing updates on the cost control — which is what we’re waiting to hear — they’re not moving fast enough,” said Batten.

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Krystal Churcher, chairwoman of the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs, speaking with Postmedia Tuesday, clarified that the announcement Tuesday did represent a new opportunity for private operators.

“It’s a massive win for parents. It’s also a massive win for private operators who have continued to invest in this space for years and have really carried the demand of childcare in our province,” she said at the government announcement Tuesday.

“To have access to funding that will allow us to expand programs to expand childcare to rural areas, to high need areas, high demand areas and meet the needs of those communities and to provide high quality care in those communities, is essential to the success of a childcare system in Alberta,” said Churcher.

“This is a really big, big step for our childcare industry and our province.”

Batten said the UCP government re-announcing news from January shows it’s not “focused on what they should be focused on, which is providing that safe, affordable, high quality child care.”

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Federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jenna Sudds said in the news release the additional childcare spaces made possible through the Canada-Alberta deal will allow more children and families across Alberta to access high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care.

“We firmly believe that a strong early learning and childcare system will be a catalyst for economic growth, increase women’s participation in the workforce, and offer each child in Canada the best possible start in life,” said Sudds.

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