Funding for Best Start program will be announced later, says education minister

P.E.I.'s education minister said an early childhood home-visiting program can expect to receive government funding again next year — but at this point he won't commit to an exact dollar figure.

Greens asked if early childhood program would again receive $150,000 to boost wages

P.E.I.'s education minister said the Best Start program, which provides home visits for families with young children, can expect to receive funding again next year. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

P.E.I.'s education minister said an early childhood home-visiting program can expect to receive government funding again next year — but at this point he won't commit to an exact dollar figure.

Charlottetown-Victoria Park MLA Karla Bernard asked questions about funding for the Best Start program during question period on Thursday and Friday this week.

The program, which is run by CHANCES family centre in partnership with the province, identifies families that could need extra support, and sends workers for regular check-ins during the first three years of a child's life.

The province provided $150,000 of additional funding for the current fiscal year, which Bernard said was used to increase wages. She asked if the government was committed to providing that same funding again for the next fiscal year. 

"It did give them a much more livable wage," said Bernard, who is the Opposition education critic. 

"I'm sure they would have liked more, but they were happy with that. And were really really concerned, and rightly so, that they were giving these wages, and then just essentially like ripping them away from them, and what that would mean to the Best Start program." 

Will fund 'appropriately,' says education minister

Education Minister Brad Trivers said the PCs "definitely believe in the Best Start program and the value that it adds."

He said the reason he hasn't committed to the same funding for the next fiscal year is that his department is currently working on what the PCs are calling the "first 1,000 days initiative" — their focus on early years development. Trivers said the Best Start program would fall under that initiative. 

"My belief at this point is we're going to continue with the Best Start program, and as part of the first 1,000 days plan, we're going to, of course, have to fund that program appropriately," Trivers said. 

Education Minister Brad Trivers said he recognizes the importance of the Best Start program. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

He wouldn't commit to the exact $150,000 figure, but said funding would likely be similar. 

"We have to make sure that we have compensation that's going to allow us to attract and retain employees in the program, so I would say it would have to be very close to that." 

Trivers also said it is possible that the scope of the program could be increased, or it could be combined with other programs. 

Pay scale

In addition to pushing for renewed funding, Bernard said she would also like to see Best Start workers put on the same pay scale as early childhood educators working in designated centres. 

Green MLA Karla Bernard would like to see Best Start workers paid the same as early childhood educators in designated centres. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"They provide invaluable supports. And what we know about child development is that some of these services are crucial for them to lead healthy, successful lives," Bernard said. 

Trivers said government is reviewing wages for all early childhood workers, including those in the Best Start program.

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