Saskatchewan

Federal, Sask. governments sign $10-a-day child-care agreement

The federal and provincial governments announced an agreement Friday morning that aims to have child care in Saskatchewan cost an average of $10 a day per child for kids under six years old by the end of 2025-26.

28,000 new regulated early learning, child-care spaces to be created over 5 years, province says

Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan and Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development, signed the billion-dollar child-care agreement on Friday morning in Regina. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

The federal and provincial governments announced an agreement Friday that aims to have child care in Saskatchewan cost an average of $10 a day per child for kids under six years old by the end of 2025-26.

The goal is for Saskatchewan families to see their child-care fees reduced by 50 per cent by the end of next year, said Chrystia Freeland, Canada's deputy prime minister and minister of finance, at Friday's news conference.

"Early learning and child care has long been a feminist issue. Canadian feminists have been fighting for universal daycare for more than half a century," she said. "But COVID has revealed to all of us that it is also an urgent economic issue."

"We want to make sure that, as we recover from this pandemic, our economic recovery is not only strong but inclusive," added Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development. "There is simply no way to tackle this 'shecession' without having access to affordable child care."

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland attended Friday’s child-care announcement in Regina. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

The almost $1.1 billion in federal funding over the next five years is also slated to create 28,000 new regulated early learning and child-care spaces in Saskatchewan for children under six years old. This includes expanding non-profit child-care centres, small child-care facilities and home-based child care.

Dustin Duncan, the province's minister of education, said the billion-dollar deal took a couple of weeks to come together, and he's pleased with the end result.

"Helping Saskatchewan families meet their child-care needs by creating quality child care is one of the best investments that we can make in our youngest learners in our economy — especially as we recover from this pandemic," he said.

Sask. child-care workers to see $17-million wage top-up 

Duncan noted a one-time investment of $17 million will be set aside this fiscal year to support the early childhood workforce in Saskatchewan. The average licensed child-care provider is expected to see a wage increase of up to $3 an hour, he said.

"We recognize that in order to have a child-care system that meets the needs of families, the wages of early childhood educators need to reflect the hard work that they do," Duncan said.

Georgia Lavalee, executive director of the Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association, called Friday’s agreement ‘historic’ and welcome news for many families and child-care workers across the province. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

Duncan said the agreement is also set to support early childhood educators in Saskatchewan with their studies, providing them with professional development opportunities.

"It will promote economic growth, it will empower women to re-enter the workforce — and it will empower the women in the early learning and child-care workforce," Georgia Lavalee, executive director of the Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association, said with a smile.

"It will nurture better outcomes for all the children in Saskatchewan."

Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement extended

The federal and provincial governments have also agreed to extend the Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, which allocates $68.5 million in federal funds over the next four years to increase access to affordable and inclusive child care. 

Duncan said that agreement has provided the province with nearly 1,300 new licensed child-care spaces, more than 240 early learning intensive support spaces, seven new family resource centres and initiatives to support educators over the last four years.

Duncan said that, as the province looks to allocate the new federal dollars, officials will be working with Indigenous communities, newcomers and people with disabilities to develop child-care options with inclusiveness, language, culture and identity in mind. 

Not an election promise, says Freeland

When asked during Friday's news conference whether this agreement was a campaign promise ahead of the anticipated upcoming federal election, Freeland insisted the deal was part of the Liberal government's previously announced COVID-19 recovery plan.

"I am not here to make any announcements about an election … My focus here today, as finance minister, is on a historic moment for Canada," she told reporters. 

"I can tell you that is a very serious significant commitment — and we made that commitment because we really believe that early learning and child care is an economic investment that works."

Meanwhile Andrew Scheer, MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle and federal Conservative shadow minister for infrastructure and communities, was leery.

"[Prime Minister] Trudeau waited six years to make these last minute announcements on child care and it's no surprise that this comes days before a possible election," Scheer wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News. 

"The Liberals have made child-care promises in eight previous elections since 1993 and they have consistently broken every one. Why should Canadians believe the Liberals now?"

Sources tell CBC News Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to visit Rideau Hall on Sunday to ask that Parliament be dissolved. 

Voters can expect to head to the polls for a federal election on Sept. 20, sources say.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessie Anton

Journalist

Jessie Anton is a Regina-based journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She began sharing stories from across the province on television, radio and online in 2016, after getting her start in the rural weekly newspaper world. Email her at jessie.anton@cbc.ca.

With files from Catharine Tunney

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