A Liberal program aimed at improving the quality of childhood education at 300 early learning centres across the province is here to stay, as the project — which came with a hefty price tag — will continue its rollout as promised by the previous government.
“This government has been very clear from the beginning that we’re not going to just toss out ideas because other people in other parties started them first,” explained Dominic Cardy, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.
It’s a move being applauded by the former Gallant Liberals who put the plan together and sourced funding from other levels of government.
“We saw this as a way to give people the opportunity to either go to school or to go and get out into the workforce by offering free daycare to those under the threshold of $37,500,” said Liberal MLA Chuck Chiasson, the Education and Early Childhood Development critic.
The $12.2-million program, funded in part by a bilateral agreement with the federal government, would allow daycares to apply for an early learning designation, which would make them eligible for increased funding.
The program even goes a step further by helping to subsidize daycare costs for families using the centres, while some households could even qualify for free childcare.
Two centres are already operating in Edmunston and Saint John, and all other areas of the province will be covered by the end of March.
There’s another portion of that Liberal promise that’s unknown — whether or not the province intends to provide childcare workers with wage increases.
“We need to look at home care and early childhood education workers’ pay because it’s a female-dominated sector, or the economy that is massively underpaid,” says Cardy.
WATCH: N.B. government moves forward on daycare commitment
The New Brunswick Women’s Council is applauding the move and says the program is a piece of social infrastructure that needs to be accessible, affordable and of the highest quality.
“It really is critical for having women participate in the workforce, for being able to pursue post-secondary education; it’s been referred to as the ramp to women’s equality,” said Beth Lyons, executive director of the council.
Early childhood education and women’s equality will be two hot-button issues during a provincial education summit in May.
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