Manitoba

Manitoba will create 'culturally relevant' child-care spaces with unspent money from earlier program

Families Minister Rochelle Squires teased the creation of new child-care spaces Tuesday, after her government was chided by the Opposition NDP for spending only a portion of the $8.5 million it pledged to build home-based and workplace child-care spots.

For past year, province has underspent previous budgets to establish additional child-care spaces

Families Minister Rochelle Squires said she'll have more information to announce shortly on the creation of new 'culturally relevant' child-care spaces. (Global/Pool Camera)

The Manitoba government will develop "culturally relevant" child-care spaces using a pool of money from an underspent program.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires teased the creation of new child-care spaces Tuesday, after her government was chided by the Opposition NDP for spending only a portion of the $8.5 million it pledged to create home-based and workplace child-care spots.

Squires offered few other details on the new spaces, aside from revealing the money would be doled out with the help of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. She said the province is consulting with the chamber and an official announcement is coming.

"It's safe to assume that there'll be culturally appropriate child-care spaces that we're working with the Winnipeg chamber on creating," she told reporters.

The Progressive Conservative government's latest attempt to create more child-care spaces follows previous efforts that failed to spend the allotted money.

Early in the pandemic, the province set aside $18 million to spur the creation of home-based programs, but less than $5 million was spent, Squires said on Tuesday.

Fraction of $8.5M fund spent

As part of that $18-million fund, the Tory government later announced $8.5 million would be targeted to developing home-based and workplace spaces.

But a freedom of information request by the NDP — the results of which were tabled during question period Tuesday —found only $1.7 million had been spent as of mid-March.

Both cases show the government wants "to get the good media coverage" from announcing millions for child-care, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said, "but they don't actually want to follow that up by making the investments that are needed to help people and help families right across Manitoba."

Kinew urged the province to instead use the money to support non-profit child-care centres facing financial challenges. Provincial grants for those centres have been frozen since 2016.

"It seems like a really sensible step, that when the government has already earmarked this money for child care, they would just go ahead and get it out the door to help those organizations that are actually caring for children."

Squires said the government is committed to to using up some of the child-care money from the underspent program.

It's earmarked some of cash — around $9 million — for a new child-care sustainability trust, which will provide one-time grants of up to $25,000 for licensed centres and $10,000 for home-based centres. The intake for the first round of applications closed last month. 

Squires said the province has up to $4.7 million to create the new child-care spaces it says are culturally appropriate.

The minister was asked if the funding would be devoted solely to for-profit spaces, but she declined to answer. 

The NDP have accused the government of pushing the development of private child-care spaces at the expense of affordable non-profit options. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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