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Child-care advocates call on Sask. government to sign federal child-care agreement

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour wants to see a negotiated deal for child care between the feds and province before a fall election. File / Global News

Child-care advocacy groups believe child care should be a top-of-mind item for the Saskatchewan government over the next couple of days.

Organizations such as the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) are calling on the province to negotiate a child-care funding deal ahead of a snap federal election.

SFL president Lori Johb said a deal is needed so working families can have access to affordable child care as soon as possible.

“With a federal election expected to be called any day, the Sask. Party should be working around the clock to make sure an agreement is reached for Saskatchewan’s share of federal child care funding,” stated Johb.

“Every day without an agreement is another day that working families in Saskatchewan have to wait for affordable, accessible child care. Putting off negotiating a deal until after the federal election only adds further delay.”

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Johb says now is the perfect time to find an agreement on this front to help get people back to work, boost the province’s economy and create jobs after the pandemic.

According to the SFL, the shared federal child-care funding is estimated to be as high as $1.2 billion over the next five years.

“It’s time for the Sask. Party to quit dragging their heels and join the other provinces who have negotiated agreements for their share of federal child care funding. Working Saskatchewan families can’t afford to wait. We need affordable, accessible child care now,” Johb added.

“It’s likely the most important legislation that we have seen since Medicare – in our country and in our province.”

Sue Delanoy, spokesperson for Child Care Now Saskatchewan, said with the Liberal government providing this opportunity for every province to sign on, she does not understand why Saskatchewan is one of the last provinces not to sign the deal.

“This is a great opportunity and we will be very, very disappointed should they not sign this deal or hold out,” Delanoy said. “We need this signed before the writ is dropped. We’re anxious to see it signed.”

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Delanoy explained that it wouldn’t be $10-per-day child care right away, but a signed deal would mean at least 50 per cent now and increased availability to meet needs.

It would also translate to improved work conditions and wages for people working in the industry.

“It’s an opportunity to enhance and expand what we already have,” said Delanoy. “The pandemic showed us that families, but women specifically, can go to work knowing their children are in high-quality early learning child care that is affordable and available.

“I think it’s a win-win and that’s why we want it.”

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While it has been reported that the sides are getting close to final negotiations with the hopes of reaching a deal by the end of the week, time is starting to run out.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan said they are confident there will be an agreement by then.

“We’re still trying to finalize things, but I know everyone is working hard to do so and I’m looking forward to having an agreement,” Duncan said.

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Duncan noted the agreement needs to be completed first before a date can be figured out for when the provincial government could lay out its goals within the province’s child-care strategy, including reaching $10-a-day child care.

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