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Manitoba Liberals commit to ending waitlist for $10-a-day child care if elected

The Manitoba Liberals say they will end waitlists for $10-a-day child care if they form the next provincial government this fall.

Affordable child care “is not a luxury, it is a lifeline,” Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said during a Wednesday campaign announcement at the YMCA on Fermor Avenue in Winnipeg.

“There are still long waitlists — there are not enough spaces and there are not enough workers.”

If elected, Lamont said his party will boost wages and benefits for early childhood education workers and provide more money for workers’ training.

The Liberals would also make sure the 23,000 child-care spaces that the provincial government hopes to create by 2026 are opened, he said.

“If people can’t get child care in today’s economy, they cannot work,” the Liberal leader said. “So making sure that people can get that child-care space they need everywhere across Manitoba is absolutely critical.”

Manitoba families began to pay a maximum fee of $10 a day at regulated non-profit child-care centres this past April, following a federal-provincial agreement. In July, both governments committed to spend $180 million to fund thousands of new licensed spaces.

Lamont also promised to improve infrastructure funding for charitable non-profits that provide child care, create an online portal for families to register for child care, and create child-care spaces closer to where parents work, such as hospitals and schools.

He also said his party would expand training programs at St. Boniface University to make French-language spaces available and ensure $10-a-day care is available for school-aged children.

Halfway to goal of 23,000 spaces: minister

Lamont said pay for early childhood education workers was so low during the Progressive Conservative Party’s time in office that many have left their jobs, leading to a shortfall of 1,000 workers in Manitoba, according to the Manitoba Child Care Association.

He also said that Manitoba had 16,000 people on a waitlist for early childhood education spaces when NDP left office in 2016.

Progressive Conservative MLA and candidate for Lac du Bonnet Wayne Ewasko said the province is halfway to its goal of opening 23,000 child care spaces by 2026.

“We’ve also increased support for higher … [early childhood education] wages by 18 per cent over the past year. We will continue fighting for affordable, accessible child care for all Manitoba families,” said Ewasko, who is currently Manitoba’s education minister, in a statement Wednesday.

Lamont said the Liberals could “significantly” increase the number of spaces within six months of forming government. 

Manitoba’s NDP previously committed to making $10-a-day child care available over the summer months, other holidays, weekends and school in-service days.

The NDP, who formed government from 1999 until 2016, helped “develop one of the best not-for-profit child care systems in Canada, with affordable fees and excellent quality services,” a spokesperson said in a email.

The child-care system “needs support after years of Heather Stefanson’s cuts, first as families minister then as premier,” the spokesperson said.

The provincial election is set for Oct. 3.

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