Danielle Pitman wiped away tears Tuesday as she talked about finding the right kind of affordable child care for her son Joe.
The Calgary mother was one of the first Albertans to take advantage of a government pilot project providing parents child care for $25 a day.
“When he came here, he struggled a little bit with some of his fine motor skills and his emotions. Clearly he gets that from me,” she said as she brushed away tears.
“I am just so appreciative of the quality of child care that my son receives here.”
Pitman’s son was enrolled in the Imagine Early Learning and Child Care Centre in northeast Calgary. She said he is thriving in his new environment.
“It’s made a huge difference to me and my family who are able to afford this great child care.”
The Alberta government is expanding the pilot project it launched in April. An additional 78 early childhood centres are to be added to the original 22 and an additional 4,500 spaces are to be created across the province.
“Parents are tired of struggling to find and then to afford the care that they want for their kids,” Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee said at an announcement Tuesday.
“When the cost of the right kind of child care is as much as a second mortgage, many parents are forced to choose between child care and pursuing their careers. Others may decide not to start a family at all.”
A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives looked at daycare fees across the country.
Calgary has fifth highest daycare fees
Calgary ranked fifth at an average of $1,250 a month for infant care compared with Toronto, where the cost was $1,758, Mississauga, Ont., at $1,452, Vancouver at $1,360 and Kitchener, Ont., at $1,325.
The cheapest child care was $168 a month in Montreal. Quebec provides a significant amount of public funding.
The Alberta plan follows an NDP campaign promise in the 2015 election to create broad-based $25-a-day care.
Larivee said the Alberta government paid $10 million to launch the pilot project earlier this year. The cost of the second phase is being picked up by the federal government under a multilateral framework to enhance provincial and territorial early learning and child care.
About 20 per cent of licensed daycare centres across Alberta will be covered under the program but it’s difficult to say how many spaces that will mean, Larivee said.
“There’s a large amount of child care that’s provided in this province in unlicensed spaces in good part because that is what has been affordable for parents.”
Larivee hopes Alberta will eventually provide universal child care.
“In the meantime, it is a pilot and it’s only once we have the evidence for it and move it across the province that we will see the kind of benefits it brings.”