Future of federal child-care budget promises unclear for Alberta families

Monday’s federal budget pledged $30 billion over the next five years for a national child care program. But Alberta is expected to pitch in, too.

Province also wants larger investment in carbon capture and storage

Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said the Alberta government will be pushing the federal government for flexibility on how to spend new federal funding for child care. (CBC)

Edmonton single mother Ewa Krempa hopes daycare fees for her toddler won't be so hard on her pocketbook in the future.

Monday's federal budget pledged $30 billion over the next five years for a national child-care program. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland's goal is to cut fees in half in the next 18 months and reduce them to $10 a day by 2026.

"I'm very happy. I can't wait until it's actually put into effect," Krempa said. "It gives me hope for a better future."

However, the program's fate in Alberta will ultimately depend on negotiations with the provincial government — a United Conservative Party government that just ended a provincial pilot offering $25-a-day child-care fees.

The fine print in Monday's budget says most of the federal investment will be contingent on provinces and territories evenly splitting the cost of subsidized child-care programs. The federal finance department didn't immediately know how much of the funding could be destined for Alberta.

Alberta Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said her government will push for as much flexibility as possible in how it can use the funding.

"We're not really interested in a one-size-fits-all institutionalized program across the country," Schulz said in an interview. "Children and families have diverse needs and any program has to acknowledge that."

Whether Alberta would be willing to invest substantially more than the $386 million it budgeted this year for child care, Schulz wouldn't say.

With more than 60 per cent of Alberta child-care centres operated as private businesses, any program would have to include both for-profit and non-profit centres, she said. 

Schulz said affordable, accessible child care is an important component of economic recovery. But generously subsidized systems such as in Quebec are funded by higher taxes, which some Albertans would oppose, she said.

An Angus Reid survey on child care published last month found Albertans were the most enthusiastic of all Canadians to see government support go directly to families rather than subsidize child-care programs.

Advocates tout economic benefits of child care

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said Albertans have no time to watch a "jurisdictional square dance" between federal and provincial governments and encouraged both to strike a deal that gets more women back into the workforce.

"The need for quality and affordable child care in Edmonton is huge. And I truly believe there is no economic recovery without child care," Iveson said.

Jennifer Usher, with the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta, said better-funded daycare not only means more parents in the workforce, but leads to higher quality programs and more fairly compensated workers.

She said child care is one of the best economic investments available, driving up gross domestic product and increasing income tax revenues to governments.

Federal budget funds carbon capture

Although Alberta's government had pushed for a $30-billion boost to carbon capture, utilization and storage technology, Monday's budget included a fraction of that — a $319-million investment over seven years.

The feds also pledged to introduce a tax credit for heavy emitters investing in carbon capture technology to sequester carbon dioxide into the ground and keep it out of the atmosphere.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement she was disappointed to see enhanced oil recovery excluded from the program. She said a 90-day consultation period to help shape the tax credit should begin as soon as possible.

Alberta's hard-hit oil and gas sector needs a bigger boost in carbon capture investment to create more jobs in the industry, Savage said.

With files from Audrey Neveu and Radio Active


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