Manitoba

'It's going to take some real money': Federal budget child care promises lacking, Manitoba association says

The head of the Manitoba Child Care Association says she's not optimistic money set aside for child care in the 2017 federal budget will be enough for Canadian families.

$7B for child care over 10 years in federal budget released Wednesday

There are nearly 15,000 children on a waiting list for a child care spot in Manitoba, according to the province. The executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association isn't sure that money promised in the federal budget will help reduce that number. (courtesy of Seven Oaks Child Day Care Centre)

The head of the Manitoba Child Care Association says she's not optimistic money set aside for child care in the 2017 federal budget will be enough for Canadian families.

The budget, released on Wednesday, includes $7 billion for child care spread across the country over a decade, starting in 2018, including adding 40,000 subsidized child-care spaces over the next three years.

"It's hard to know how far that's actually going to go," said Pat Wege, executive director of the association. "When I look at it through the lens of Manitoba, we have almost 15,000 kids in our own province that are waiting for child-care space."

As of July 2016, the wait for child care in Manitoba was at a record high with 14,872 children on the list, according to the province. That translates to a wait time of about 14 to 15 months for a child care spot, Wege said.

She said it's hard to know right now how much of the promised $7 billion, and how many subsidized spots, Manitoba will get.

"We've tried to find out how much that means for Manitoba. It's probably less than 15,000," she said. "It will enable the development of some new spaces for sure, but again, there's a lot that we don't know at this point."

In a budget that included measures to welcome more newcomers and boost job creation, Wege said the demand for child care will likely grow.

Wealthier families could benefit, Wege says

The budget included the option of extending parental leave to 18 months from 12 months, but without any additional compensation.

Parents would also have the option of beginning the leave 12 weeks prior to the due date.

Wege said it's good to give parents more options, but it would have been better if the additional six months of leave included compensation.

"It may take some of the pressure off of the child-care system for higher-income families that can afford … having a loss of income for a period of time," she said. "Time will tell."

Wege said child-care workers were hoping to see a plan that would "kick start" Canadian child care. That could have included subsidies to pay for spots, wage enhancements for workers or investment in capital and operating costs of child-care centres.

"In order to build a child-care system, it's going to take some real money," she said. "And I'm not sure that this is going to bring that kind of dollar."

With files from Jill Coubrough, Aidan Geary

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