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Private daycares get more time to consider options as N.S. lifts deadline

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia lifts Mar. 18 deadline for private daycares'
Nova Scotia lifts Mar. 18 deadline for private daycares
WATCH: A week after the provincial government gave private daycares until mid-March to choose between three options under the new universal child care program, it's lifting the deadline. Private daycare operators have raised concerns about the changes. Alicia Draus reports. – Jan 21, 2022

After raising concerns over their place in Nova Scotia’s plan to move forward with universal child care, private child-care operators in the province have been given more time to consider their options.

On Jan. 13, Nova Scotia told private daycare operators that in order to move towards $10-a-day child care, they would have to either switch to a non-profit model or sign on to the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement the province signed with Ottawa in July. Operators who didn’t like those options could continue operating privately but would forgo any funding they’re currently receiving from the government.

Operators were given until March 18 to make a decision. That deadline has now been lifted.

Read more: Early childhood educators in Nova Scotia still without pensions as reduced fees come into play

“There weren’t a lot of details in what was presented to us back on the 13th of January,” said Donna Buckland, owner of Giant Steps Children’s Centre and chair of the Nova Scotia Early Childhood Action Group.

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“So with the lack of details as business owners, it just didn’t make sense for any of us to sign.”

Last Friday, the province publicly announced that it was ahead of schedule on its path towards universal child care and that starting April 1, parents would see child care fees reduced by 25 per cent, retroactive to Jan. 1.

After that announcement, private child-care operators spoke out about their concerns with the government’s plan to move forward to universal child care without planning for a way to properly include private daycares.

“We want to be able to own our own business and make decisions for our business that reflect best practice for us,” said Buckland.

On Monday, an online petition was launched against the government calling for the public to “help fight against the attack on entrepreneurs, educators and the quality of care.”

Click to play video: 'Child care fees across Nova Scotia to be reduced by 25 per cent'
Child care fees across Nova Scotia to be reduced by 25 per cent

On Thursday, the province lifted the March 18 deadline originally imposed on daycares to decide the future of their business.

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“We know there’s been a lot of anxiety with what this path looks like so we’ve taken a step back to slow things for them in terms of the choices they need to make,” said Minister for Early Childhood Development Becky Druhan.

On Friday, many of the 200 private daycare operators met to discuss a way forward and plan to submit a proposal to government on how private care operators can be better included in universal child care.

“They need our spaces, and they need to come to the table to us and chat with how we can make it work for everybody,” said Buckland.

While Druhan maintains that the three options initially offered to private operators offer “lots of opportunities,” she says the province has already been meeting with individual operators and groups and is listening to what they say.

“We really want to hear from the operators with respect to what their concerns and what their needs are,” said Druhan.

“There’s really a lot of opportunity within those broad three options to address those questions and issues.”

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