Daycare operators are losing grants that the province provided to accredited programs and centres across Alberta.
On April 1, Alberta Human Services is ending the Quality Enhancement Grant which provided $7,500 for accredited childcare centres and $4,000 for accredited before and after-school programs.
Craig Loewen, press secretary for the department, said the grant was cut because it achieved its goal of helping childcare centres qualify for accreditation. He said the government has now shifted the focus to providing subsidies for working parents.
"That's very key reason why we increased the income threshold up to a maximum of $50,000 for a maximum subsidy," he said.
Still, daycare operators said the loss of the grant may force them to raise fees, which in turn, will make care unaffordable for lower-income families. They said that the money allows them to provide additional training for staff and better programming.
Monica Gregoire, director of Fulton Child Care in Edmonton, said her centre currently has a waiting list of more than 300 people looking for spaces for infants.
"The reason they're on our waiting list is because they want quality," she said. "In order to ensure quality, we need to enhance our programs."
Sharon Reib is with the Churchill Park Family Care Society, which runs six daycares, 50 day homes and three out-of-school care programs in Calgary.
Her agencies use the money for enhanced programs like music or yoga.
"Our childcare people offer very high quality care, but many of them aren't musicians, or yoga teachers or artists," she said.
"So this money has been able to provide those extra things and ...field trips aren't considered basic but really critical to enhanced learning."
The loss to her agency is about $50,000 a year. Reib said agencies will have to try to raise the money elsewhere or ask parents if they want to volunteer more or pay extra.
Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, found the move puzzling.
He said Alberta's childcare funding is among the lowest in Canada and this latest cut will make waiting lists even longer.
"Cutting funding for this important grant makes absolutely no sense at this time," Moore-Kilgannon told a news conference in Edmonton on Monday.
"If you look at the childcare budget, they actually got a small increase this year. So we are wondering why they are doing this."