Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney revealed details of child-care agreement that will see the cost drop in 2022 and $10-a-day child care available across Alberta within the next five years.
Kenney said child-care fees will drop by an average of 50 per cent by early 2022 and families will pay an average of $10 a day by 2025/26. He added the agreement covers a variety of licensed child-care options, including pre-school and day homes.
In addition to private spaces, Kenney said the agreement includes a plan to add 42,500 new licensed and non-profit daycare and day home spaces over the next five years, creating new jobs and expanding care options for families.
Kenney said the deal also brings $3.5 billion in federal tax dollars “back to Alberta.”
The federal Liberal government has already inked deals with seven provinces and one territory on its $30-billion, five-year child care plan, which promises to cut child-care prices to an average of $10 per day across the country, but until Monday Alberta and Ontario had held out.
The Monday morning announcement at an Edmonton YMCA included several other officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Freeland became emotional while speaking about the affordable child-care agreement in Alberta and how it furthers feminism.
She shared the story of how her late mother and other Alberta grandmothers fought for equality decades ago during the second wave of the feminist movement.
The federal plan has been widely celebrated by children and family advocates.
But Kenney said in April when the plan was announced that he didn’t feel it accounted for stay-at-home parents, saying at the time that it would only support what he called “urban 9-to-5 government- and union-run institutional daycare options.”
“This province is different,” Kenney said Monday about rejecting the first agreement.
“We have by far the largest percentage of child care spaces offered by private operators they did not qualify in initial deal that was offered. We did not want to exclude all those parents.”
The premier said the province “got much better arrangement that reflects choices of Alberta parents.”
The feds had previously announced plans for a universal $10-a-day system by 2026.
The Opposition said the UCP government waited four months to sign a deal that is “almost identical” to the one the NDP proposed in July.
“When the UCP became government in 2019, it became very clear that they did not support a vision for universal affordable child care,” said Rakhi Pancholi, Alberta NDP Critic for Children’s Services. “Jason Kenney had no plans to increase affordability after abruptly ending the (NDP’s) pilot program until this opportunity came along from the federal government.”
“Albertans who continued to speak up on the importance of quality and affordable child care should be taking a victory lap today,” she said. “I’ve heard from thousands of Alberta parents in the last month alone saying they needed $10/day child care. They are the reason we saw this deal signed.”
Pancholi added if the UCP government continued the $25/day child-care program brought in by the NDP, the premier would have had more flexibility when negotiating this deal with the federal government.
“The reason Quebec got the deal they did is because they had a child-care system in place that met the standard of care this federal government was looking for with this investment.”
The NDP estimates the four-month wait cost Alberta families $3,094.
In a statement, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said the new deal puts Alberta on a more level playing field with other provinces.
“In the current context of the global competition for talent, this agreement makes Alberta more attractive as a place to build a career and have a family,” president and CEO Deborah Yedlin said.
“With the labour-force participation rate of Canadian women at its lowest level in 30 years, it also means Albertans, particularly women, can more fully participate in our economic recovery and growth.”
“We are encouraged by an updated wage grid increasing the competitiveness of salaries, which better reflects the value of early childhood educators to our economy. We would also like to see an action plan that supports further investment in skill development and credentialling for educators, with a focus on delivering a high-quality curriculum and childcare options for parents that work non-standard hours,” she added.
Yedlin said the agreement shows that collaboration between levels of government is possible.
“Broad issues like childcare require governments working together toward a common goal. When governments can agree on critical issues, we can seize the tremendous economic potential of our economy. As we move ahead to address other big issues — like climate change — collaboration between all levels of government and with industry will be essential to ensuring our province is fully equipped to contribute to our collective success.”
— With files from The Canadian Press