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Some private child care operators in Alberta threaten to opt out of $10-a-day deal

Some Alberta child care operators are threatening to opt out of Canada’s $10-a-day child care deal amid what they call “government turmoil.”

The Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs (AACE) told Global News many of its members have “finally had enough” following a recent, tense town hall meeting.

“I think people are frustrated,” AACE chair Krystal Churcher said. “I’m frustrated.”

Churcher said operators, who she believed were initially “coerced” into signing agreements “under duress,” are now facing the potential withholding of critical funding. She said the government has announced plans to send a survey to operators to understand the cost of running child care centers in the province.

“We’re three years into this agreement,” she pointed out. “Three years into transforming our child care sector and only now are they asking for financial information.”

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Churcher said the government has not listened to what operators have had to say about the costs associated with providing “quality” care.

“You want a sustainable system that provides niche programming that supports all of your child’s needs — that is not a discount service,” she said. “Those are things that cost money.”

“If we think we can do it for $10-a-day when you can’t get a coffee and a muffin for $10-a-day — we’re delusional.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta inks affordable child care deal with Ottawa'

Alberta inks affordable child care deal with Ottawa

The federal government’s 2021 budget included a $30-billion, five-year offer that would eventually cut costs to families to $10 a day by 2025-26.

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Every province and territory has signed on to the deal. In exchange for the federal money, provinces had to implement the federal vision, which, while cutting fees, also sought to increase wages for child-care workers.

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Some operators have said the federal-provincial agreements limit the fees they can charge while not providing enough support to cover all their costs.

The Imagination Tree Childcare Centre in Calgary. Tomasia DaSilva

Sarah Hunter is the owner of The Imagination Tree Childcare Centre. She told Global News the fees don’t cover her “ever-growing” costs and instead have run her deep into debt.

“Bankruptcy,” she said. “We’re facing closure of our centre.”

Hunter, whose family has been in the child care business for 35 years, said she simply won’t be able to survive much longer under the $10-a-day program.

“My rent has gone up $1,000 every year since I moved in. The cost of food has been skyrocketing. My insurance has gone up,” she said. “Everything has gone up, but my fees are frozen. My fees are the same as they were five years ago.”

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Click to play video: 'Minister Rebecca Schulz says $10-a-day child care key step in Alberta’s economic recovery'

Minister Rebecca Schulz says $10-a-day child care key step in Alberta’s economic recovery

Hunter believed the government had no idea what it costs to run childcare centres, adding trying to find out now is just too late.

“The fact that they’re asking for that three years into this and I’m already in such a massive amount of debt — it’s just too late and it’s not enough.”

“Where was the government when I put a million dollars into this centre?” she questioned. “They weren’t here. They didn’t fund this daycare. They actually stole it from me.”

She hasn’t decided if she will opt-out or not, adding she has her staff and clients to think about.

“I’m just heartbroken,” she said tearfully. “I’m heartbroken for the children we serve and for their families. If we don’t remain viable and open, I have no idea where they will go.”

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AACE is urging the government to rethink its approach, warning that the current strategy could lead to the collapse of high-quality child care services in Alberta.

Global News reached out to both the provincial and federal governments but has not yet heard back.

Click to play video: 'Some Alberta daycares begin rolling closures to protest $10 per day child care'

Some Alberta daycares begin rolling closures to protest $10 per day child care

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