The province of Manitoba and the government of Canada have put pen to paper on a four-year, $98-million extension of their Early Learning and Child Care agreement.
The former pact, which was due to expire at the end of next month, will now run through March 2025.
It includes $19 million in funding focused on recruiting and retaining more qualified staff in the sector.
Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko says most of that capital is going to be put to work right away, and staff should be seeing some of that in their pockets.
“We’ll be expending up to $12.6 million by March 31 to provide immediate benefits and economic support to (the sector).”
Ewasko says some of the lowest-paid workers in the sector will see a boost to their wages under a bridge program until the new agreement is implemented.
Ottawa and the province are also planning to top up pension plans and RRSP programs for various providers for a year, and allow centres to help fund a one-time investment in a tax-free savings account.
“It’s not just about existing wages,” Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould says. “(Ensuring) there are benefits available to them are important incentives for people to remain in the workforce, and recognizing service.”
The remaining $6.4 million will be used to help reimburse tuition costs for those currently enrolled in, or recently graduated from, early childhood education (ECE) training programs.
Underserved communities will also see direct funding to ECE programs in an effort to remove barriers that some people face when trying to join the sector.
With nearly half of Manitoba’s child care spaces currently being subsidized, Jodie Kehl of the Manitoba Childcare Association says the sector needs to be an attractive place for potential workers.
“Today’s announcement, I really am optimistic, is that glimmer of hope to signal to our sector – there’s more and there’s better to come.”
“It’s important the financial and professional welfare of (early childhood educators) is a key part of the agreements,” Gould says.
“We know early childhood educators (ECEs) are the very heart of a high-quality system.”
Ewasko says those classified as ECE-2s will soon see wages starting near $21/hour, ECEs at $16.51/hour, and assistants will earn “just over $13/hour.”
The province also announced a pair of new initiatives Tuesday.
The Renovation Expansion Grant will help fund non-profits looking to expand their existing space to meet community needs, and Manitoba will also be subsidizing some of the costs of child-care assistant certification programs, as well as offering more seats.
Kehl says making ECEs feel appreciated is key to making sure other industries across the province continue to operate.
“Folks that work in health care can’t go to work without child care. Someone that works at a grocery store can’t work without child care. It’s all of these things combined that have been some of the greatest learning lessons throughout the pandemic.”