It’s been a roller-coaster year for Ewa Krempa.
Due to COVID-19 cutbacks, the single mother lost her job for four months. It was unexpected.
“It was a lot of juggling to do over that last year, I’m not going to lie,” said Krempa.
She eventually returned to work but had to leave again in December 2020 when she became sick with COVID-19.
Krempa recovered but is now unable to work because of an injury. She is hoping to return to her job in May.
Adding to the Edmonton woman’s stress is the monthly $1,100 fee for her daughter’s daycare.
“It’s quite a bit of money.”
Krempa said the newly announced $30-billion federal child-care program would help ease her financial burden.
“I can’t wait for the government to give us some extra help,” she said.
The 2021 federal budget commits to bringing child-care fees to an average of $10 a day in regulated centres by 2025-26, at a cost of $30 billion over the next five years.
The $10-a-day universal child-care initiative would have to be accepted by every province in Canada for it to be successful.
Speaking Monday afternoon, Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said she “welcomes” the investment in child care, but added: “What I really want to make sure is that there’s flexibility so that we can meet the unique needs of Alberta child care operators and Alberta parents.”
Schultz said currently in Alberta, more than 60 per cent of child-care centres are privately owned, and only one in seven parents enroll their children in licensed daycares.
Schulz wouldn’t say whether the Alberta government would support the plan announced by Freeland, adding the province needs more details from the federal government.
But post-COVID employment for many Canadian women looks uncertain.
RBC economists said nearly half a million Canadian women who lost their jobs during the pandemic hadn’t returned to work at the start of 2021.
More than 200,000 are long-term unemployed. That’s no job for at least 12 months.
The RBC data also showed women absorbed 65 per cent of job losses in accommodation and food services, the hardest hit industry during the pandemic.
Jill Arnott teaches in the Women and Gender Studies department at the University of Regina. She said women need to be included in the economic build-back.
“When half of your population can’t participate, that’s not good for your economy.”
Arnott said lesser pay than men has kept women out of the workforce and for many, they had no choice but to stay home because the cost of child care is too prohibitive.
“For women, it’s a very real obstacle that prevents women from being able to participate equally in the economy.”
“We know all over the globe, when women and girls have access to education — and that means not having child care as an obstacle — economies flourish, communities flourish, entire countries flourish,” said Arnott.
Arnott said it’s time a national program focused on the part of the population disproportionately bearing the burden of childc are.
“The potential is huge. It’s a game-changer, 100 per cent.”
When asked about the federal program, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday he “absolutely recognizes” that many parents struggle with the burden — the cost and availability — of child care and work.
However, he said Alberta believes these types of subsidies should “respect the choices of parents.”
“Our first read of the federal policy announced yesterday is that it’s only for cookie-cutter, 9-5, urban, government- and union-run institutional daycare options, which excludes the vast majority of parents — parents who have shift work who can’t use that kind of care, rural parents who don’t have access to it, Indigenous communities that typically don’t have the population capacity for that kind of institutional daycare and the hundreds of thousands of Alberta families who use a mixture of different solutions, including informal care.”
“The other thing is the federal policy apparently excludes participation from child-care businesses who operate as for-profits,” Kenney said. “They’re a critical part of the child-care infrastructure here in Alberta.
“And then, of course, there’s the parents who make the sacrifice to give up a second income, to have a dad or mom help to raise kids at home, spending more time with their younger children,” he said.
“We will be pushing, I hope with other provinces, for maximum flexibility. If it’s a take-it-or-leave-it, Ottawa-style cookie-cutter program, I don’t think that satisfies the demands or expectations of Albertans.”
— With files from Emily Mertz, Sarah Ryan and Heide Pearson, Global News