February 20th, 2019

$25/day child care earns praise from think tank

By Jeremy Appel on January 19, 2019.


jappel@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNJeremyAppel

Public Interest Alberta, a left-leaning think tank, released the results of its 2018 child-care survey Wednesday, which praises the government’s $25/day subsidized Early Learning Child Care Centres program as “pointing the way forward” for the province’s child-care needs.

“In addition to providing more affordable care, these survey results show that the ELCC Centres receiving public funding are doing measurably better in providing higher quality care with better-trained and qualified staff,” said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. “They are also providing more care spaces for infants and children with disabilities, which can be very difficult for families to find.”

Of all the child-care centres surveyed, PIA found that 49.23 per cent serve infants, 62.54 per cent serve children with disabilities and 31.11 per cent serve children who’ve been expelled from other programs due to behavioural issues.

Of the ELCC Centres, 65.88 per cent serve infants, 74.68 per cent serve children with disabilities and 38.96 serve children with behavioural issues.

However, ELCC facilities are far more likely to have a waiting list, with 88 per cent compared to 59 per cent for all daycares in the province.

According to Jennifer Usher, the co-ordinator of the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association, there are four ELCC Centres, out of 24 child-care centres in the Hat.

“As part of the child-care community, we’re very happy for the government to be investing in early childhood (education),” she said, adding that low-income families that qualify for subsidies pay just $4 a month for ELCC services.

PIA’s survey also notes that ELCC Centres are more likely to have highly-qualified staff, which Usher attributes to government funding the ELCC facilities receive.

She said the government should look at what assistance it can provide to centres outside the ELCC’s purview to level the playing field.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA and opposition finance critic Drew Barnes says he’s in favour of $25-a-day daycare, but questions the value of the program’s universality.

“What does surprise me about the NDP program is (that) Alberta taxpayers are also subsidizing millionaires’ daycares,” said Barnes. “Why wouldn’t we save our hard-earned tax dollars for those who need it the most?”

He says access to subsidized childcare should be means-tested.

However, a public service like health care is “much different” and should be equally accessible to all, regardless of income, as stipulated in the Canada Health Act, Barnes added.

“People’s fear with health is that we’ll end up with two systems — private and public — in competition for our good quality front-line workers,” he said.

Barnes says his party will have a policy on child care in its platform for the upcoming provincial election.

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