Manitoba

NDP promise to put new child-care spaces in hospitals, other public buildings

Manitoba New Democrats are promising to boost child care if they win the provincial election.

Announcement comes after PCs, Liberals pledge more child-care spaces

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promised to create 600 new child-care spaces a year if elected premier. Kinew said the NDP would build new child-care spaces in all new government buildings, including hospitals and public housing complexes, for example. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promises to create 600 new child-care spaces a year if elected premier next month.

Kinew said an NDP government would create the spaces in all new public buildings that the province builds, including hospitals and public housing complexes, for example.

He said the spaces would be accessible for employees who work in the government buildings, as well as members of the public who live nearby.

"We believe that adding 600 spots per year is a sustainable number that we can continue to build on," Kinew said Tuesday morning at Dante Day Nursery in Winnipeg. He added he would lift a funding freeze from the PCs for licensed not-for-profit child-care programs.

Kids do a craft at the Dante Day Nursery in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Kinew said he is committing $8,500 in capital costs per new space and $6,000 in operating costs per space and will keep parent fees the same rate they are at now.

He has a long-term goal of eliminating a wait-list for child care and promised to create daycare for $15 a day but said that's an aspirational objective he'd like to have done in 10 years, acknowledging it won't happen overnight.

He also promised to move programs for child care from the Department of Families to Education to make programs better.

'Depressing' wait-list for care

Manitoba parents often have to wait a long time to get their kids into daycare. The Manitoba Child Care Association said as of last July there were 16,568 children on a wait-list.

Roxanne Scarth is smiling now but she wasn't when she couldn't find daycare for her first child when she returned to work in January 2017 after her mat leave ended. (Warren Kay/CBC)

"The wait-lists are just really depressing so going back to work after my first [child] we didn't have child care right away for her, and it was really stressful," said Roxanne Scarth, a mom with two kids. She said she couldn't find daycare for her first child when she went back to work in January 2017 after her maternity leave ended.

She resorted to finding a nanny on Kijiji and then once she found a daycare it cost her $80 a day, which hit her family hard financially.

Frustrated about the process, she wrote a letter to Kinew's office. She was later able to get her second child into Dante Day Nursery, where she's now the board's chair.

The NDP's announcement comes after the Progressive Conservatives promised on Sunday to create more affordable child-care options by continuing to work with private businesses. And it follows the Liberals' promise Monday to create 18,000 new spaces over eight years and ensure workers are paid more.

Tories call plan weak

The Tories called Kinew's plan "weak" and said a re-elected PC government would create "roughly double" the number of spaces the New Democrats are promising.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the NDP's promise would barely make a dent to the wait-list.

"The NDP announcement today does not address early childhood educator's wages, which is long overdue and crucial to making sure people are able to fill these positions and earn a liveable income," he said in a statement.

Green Party Leader James Beddome pledged Tuesday to create 20,000 new child-care spaces over 10 years at a total cost of $310 million — plus $1.1 million a year in operating costs.

He also promised no parent earning less than poverty wages would pay child-care costs, and no family would spend more than 10 per cent of its net income on child care.

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About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. This past summer, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

With files from Bartley Kives