New report calls Manitoba a child care ‘desert’ with extreme shortage of available spaces

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New report calls Manitoba a child care ‘desert’ with extreme shortage of available spaces
New report calls Manitoba a child care ‘desert’ with extreme shortage of available spaces – May 16, 2023

Is Manitoba a child care desert?

According to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), more than 76 per cent of pre-school aged children in the province live in postal codes that currently have a shortage of available child care spaces.

That’s a huge disparity, the report says, from the 48 per cent nationwide — and CCPA Manitoba director Molly McCracken told 680 CJOB those numbers are even higher in rural Manitoba and Brandon.

A bilateral agreement in place between Manitoba and the federal government commits to using federal funding for an increase of 23,000 not-for-profit and licensed child care spaces by 2025-26.

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McCracken said that agreement outlines the goal, but with very little planning in place to be able meet the demand.

“We have to add 23,000 to get us up to the standard the government has set for making sure there’s enough available for the demand, and we’re saying here that there’s very little action toward creating those new licensed spaces.”

“We need to focus on non-profit expansion so we don’t balloon the costs of the system,” McCracken said.

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“…also in staffing and wages and training new early childhood educator workers to staff these new spaces.”

Parents say they’re struggling too, with many child care centres booked up for years in advance.

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Lisa McLeod told Global Winnipeg her three-and-a-half-year-old son attends in a Montessori-type centre, but she also has an infant, and so far, she hasn’t had any luck finding child care for him — and her return to work is only months away.

“We’re trying to get him into somewhere for when I go back to work in August,” she said.

“I’ve been looking and applying to places basically since he was born and we don’t have anywhere lined up yet.”

McLeod said changes to the way the province’s child care website operates mean she’s been reaching out to each individual centre directly, but has still been unable to find anywhere with an opening.

“You’re left to your own devices. There is a government site with the centres listed… but you’re basically emailing them and then hoping that they’re putting you on the list.

“When I’ve been calling, they’ve been telling me 2025-2026 there’s an opening and not a lot of centres have a spot for an infant under 2, so we’re not sure what we’re doing yet.”

It’s a similar story on social media, McLeod said. Despite the presence of some volunteer-run groups trying to help set up parents with child care, any posting gets immediately swamped — and it’s often unclear, especially in the case of home-based daycares, whether the providers are properly licensed.

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“We don’t have a spot right now. That’s all I know. I think we’ve tried almost everything we can.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba’s $10-a-day childcare strategy is ‘misleading’: Winnipeg parent'
Manitoba’s $10-a-day childcare strategy is ‘misleading’: Winnipeg parent

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