EDMONTON — Alberta will continue to get money from Ottawa for its child care program, but has not yet signed up for its share of $27-billion federal pot for such services, much to the Official Opposition’s criticism.
The province announced on Friday a renewal of the Canada–Alberta Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, which will see the federal government provide more than $100 million for program subsidies and recruitment this year.
According to Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, $45 million will be used to make child care more affordable for working parents and $56 million will be spent on professional development and workforce recovery and retention.
She called the extension a “great first step” in negotiations with Ottawa.
But the NDP was quick to point out Alberta hadn’t yet accessed federal funding B.C. and Nova Scotia are using to implement $10/day child care programs.
The two provinces were the first to take advantage of a national program Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government introduced in April to cut fees and create spaces. Trudeau pledged $27.2 billion over five years to the initiative in the most recent budget.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley figures Alberta’s UCP government leaves about $1 million on the table each day it doesn’t take advantage of the money pot, and called Friday’s announcement a “bait and switch.”
When asked why Alberta hadn’t yet worked out a deal with Ottawa, Schulz said the province “didn’t have quite all the information that some of the other provinces had” but that it had received a term sheet this week outlining the parameters of the funding and could soon start negotiations officially.
She said her government was working to make sure Albertans had a variety of options. “
“Alberta is not the only province looking for flexibility,” the minister told CTV News Edmonton. “We know that every province has a different system and parents have different needs, so we are very optimistic we can get a fair deal.”
Notley called the suggestion that a $10/day program would be one-size-fits-all trite, inaccurate and unrealistic.
“(The Canada–Alberta Early Learning and Child Care Agreement) is a lovely funding program but it is not going to make any significant change in the lives of people who are looking for either a $25/day program or $10/day program,” she told press.
According to Schulz, Alberta spends about $400 million each year on child care, a large chunk of which — $280 million – is used to subsidize the cost on families.
Parents with an income of $75,000 or less have access to subsidies, which brings the cost down to about $13 a day, Schulz said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson
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