New report calls for progressive changes to Manitoba child-care costs

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A University of Manitoba prof is calling for child care to be universal — or at least affordable for all families — in a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The report by Susan Prentice, ‘Progressive Pricing: Making Childcare More Affordable in Manitoba’, reviews the current child-care system in the province, as well as the amount families in different income groups spend on child care.

Prentice told 680 CJOB the timing is right for the report, as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought issues of child care to the forefront of many Manitobans’ minds.

“One of the reasons I feel like child care is finally punching through into everybody’s awareness is that during COVID, it became clear– if it wasn’t before — that everybody relies on somebody who relies on child care,” she said.

“From a health-care worker to the bus driver to the person stocking the grocery stores, parents are in the labour force and parents need child care.”

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Prentice said although Manitoba has some of the lowest child-care fees in the country (behind Quebec), it still doesn’t mean those costs can be borne by all local families.

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The report calls for a fee scale depending on a family’s net income, with a maximum high cost of $27.20 a day, or free at the lower end of the scale.

“We tried three different models of affordability,” she said. “If you spend more than 10 per cent, 7.5 per cent, or five per cent of your net family income on child care, it’s probably unaffordable for you.

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“From the perspective of where we really ought to be, we don’t ask parents to pay tuition [for their kids] to walk into a school so maybe we shouldn’t pay anything at all for child care — it should be fully publicly funded.”

Prentice said when child care is out of reach for Manitoba families, it can have a far-reaching effect on the province’s economy as a whole.

“When child care is unaffordable it means typically a mother can’t work, or can’t work fulltime, or can’t go to school or take up training.”

While the provincial government didn’t provide any specific details when it comes to child care in Wednesday’s throne speech, it said it will be looking at making child care more affordable and more accessible for parents.

It will be looking to develop what it calls “a modern child care system and funding model that will enable and support the child care sector to grow in line with demand from Manitoba families.”

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Click to play video: 'Manitoba Childcare Association on COVID-19 concerns'
Manitoba Childcare Association on COVID-19 concerns

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