Sask. to hit $10-a-day goal for regulated child care by April 1, but wait-lists are long
Province still needs to add more than 8,000 spaces to meet goal of 28,000 by 2026
The federal and Saskatchewan governments have announced that their goal of having regulated child care in the province cost an average of $10 a day for children under the age six will be achieved by next month.
That means the province will have to work fast to add new child-care spaces and staff to meet the demand from parents currently on the wait-list and new applicants attracted by the more affordable prices.
The news means Saskatchewan will reach the $10-a-day pricing target well ahead of the 2025-2026 goal originally announced in August 2021.
"Saskatchewan is meeting that objective three years ahead of schedule, which is terrific news for families in this province," said Karina Gould, federal minister of families children and social development.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be the first Canadian provinces to achieve the milestone, Gould confirmed Monday.
The two provinces follow Nunavut, which became the first territory to hit the target in December.
Gould was joined by Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan's education minister, at the YMCA on Albert Street in Regina to make the announcement Monday.
According to a news release, parents and guardians can expect to pay $217.50 per month if their child is under the age of six and attends regulated child care on a full-time basis. This means families will save an average of $395 to $573 per month for each child compared to the same fees as of March 31, 2021, the release says.
Gould said those savings will go a long way for families.
"With this announcement, families in Saskatchewan, since the fees were reduced, are saving between $400 and $600 a month," she said. "That's real money that's going the distance to help people pay for groceries, pay for rent."
Julie Wermie is a Regina mother of four who has used YMCA child care for all four of her children, with two in the program now. She said the new pricing frees the family to invest more in travel, sports and their children's futures.
"A $10-a-day fee is absolutely amazing. It helps so much for us to be able to continue putting away education money for our kids," Wermie said.
WATCH| Saskatchewan to hit $10-a-day goal for regulated child care by April 1, but wait-lists are long:
Long wait-lists, staff needed
Duncan admitted that is still work to do on the file, as there are substantial wait-lists to get a regulated child space in Saskatchewan.
"It was always part of the vision to make sure that it was affordable but also accessible," he said.
The province says that as of Dec. 31, 2022, there are 19,790 regulated child spaces in Saskatchewan.
The Canada-Saskatchewan Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement sets a goal of reaching 28,000 spaces in the province by 2026.
From April 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2022, the agreement has created nearly nearly 4,700 spaces — 3,402 new spaces in child-care centres and 1,294 spaces opened in home child-care facilities, according to a spokesperson from the education ministry.
The latter includes openings in new child-care homes, as well as previously unregulated child-care facilities that have since become regulated, the spokesperson said, but they did not provide a further breakdown.
Dean Dodge, CEO of YMCA Saskatoon, said the child-care spots are needed, but the province will have its work cut out for it in terms of staffing new facilities.
"I think the only way we'll reach [28,000] is if the way we attract, retain and reward child-care educators is fair," Dodge said.
"The 28,000 spaces is fantastic and we'll do everything we can with the other nonprofit and charitable providers, but it really will come down to the staffing. And I think there are lots of different ways to allow to make it quicker transition [for new workers] into education, and recognize new Canadians' experience as well."
The agreement between the federal and provincial governments also provides funding for free training and education to help increase the number of early childhood educators in the province.
Wages will be also be enhanced by up to $5.00 per hour and grants will be available for regulated child-care facilities, the release says.
YMCA Saskatoon has built two new child-care facilities in the past three years — YMCA Child Care Centre Fairhaven and YMCA Child Care Centre Brighton — and it still has more than 700 children on its wait-list.
"The cost of building or renovating buildings for child care is really, really difficult. And the province has done a better job in the last few years of increasing that amount," Dodge said.
"But still, with the cost of construction, and cost of lease, it's really, really difficult and you have to be very very careful as to how to plan to expand."
Gould said that as of December, there had been child-care fee reductions of up to 50 per cent across the country since the federal government signed agreements with provinces.
With files from Nicholas Frew