OVERVIEW: Quality, Affordable Childcare For Manitoba Families
Working families depend on quality, accessible, affordable childcare to go out and make their living, whether it’s parents returning to work, taking classes to upgrade their skills, or getting their first job.
Childcare costs make up a significant part of household budgets, and worrying about getting a childcare space at the right time can be stressful for families. Knowing you can get a licensed childcare space when you need one, and at a cost that won’t break the bank, allows working parents to go to work or school, with the peace of mind that their kids are being cared for in a safe, happy and enriching environment.
A strong, publicly-funded childcare system is also an important bridge to women’s equality, allowing more and more women to enter and re-enter the labour market, expanding opportunities, increasing employment and boosting our economy.
Making Childcare Better
There have been major investments in growing and improving Manitoba’s childcare system over the term of the current NDP government.
This has included nearly tripling funding for childcare to more than $162 million annually and newly funding more than 14,300 childcare spaces. [Source: Manitoba Government, Family Services]
Setting The Election Bar
A growing Manitoba population and persistent wait lists for childcare spaces (especially for infant spaces) underscore the need for further investments to make Manitoba’s childcare system truly universal.
This means making it accessible and affordable to all families in all parts of the province when they need it, with fair wages and good working conditions for childcare staff.
Wages for childcare workers have also been strengthened, though still remain significantly under market, and a pension plan has been introduced.
The cost of childcare has been kept lower in Manitoba than anywhere else in the country, outside of Quebec, providing families with an affordability advantage. In provinces with a higher proportion of private childcare providers and no government cap on fees, families can pay more for childcare than they do for housing.
According to a recent survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, families in Winnipeg pay $651 a month for infant care, compared to more than $800 in Saskatoon, nearly $1,000 in Ottawa, $1,400 in St. John’s and more than $1,700 in Toronto. These same kind of differences were found in comparing preschool childcare fees — as illustrated by the chart at left — with Manitoba fees coming in second lowest to Quebec.
- Enough high quality, licensed, accessible and affordable childcare spaces to provide timely access for parents in all parts of the province;
- Sufficient numbers of well trained and fairly compensated childcare workers to meet licensing requirements, with access to appropriate professional development to ensure the best possible care for our children;
- Secure government funding and regulated parent fees to keep childcare affordable for families;
- Additional government subsidization of childcare spaces for lower income families to remove access barriers for these families; and
- Capital funding for maintenance and improvements as well as to build new and expand existing centres to accommodate more spaces.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND
The NDP has a strong 16-year record of investing and improving childcare in Manitoba. Going forward, the NDP has based much of its childcare platform on recommendations from a recent Manitoba Early Learning and Childcare Commission report, released in January
The NDP has laid out what it calls a “road map toward creating universally accessible childcare” (News Release, Jan 12, 2016). Their plan includes:
- Creating 12,000 more childcare spaces to improve accessibility;
- Continuing to regulate childcare parent fees for all publicly-funded spaces to maintain affordability;
- Implementing a new subsidy and a sliding scale for lower income families on childcare fees, including phasing out all fees for fully subsidized families, to make childcare far more accessible to lower income families;
- Phasing-in a provincial wage scale for early childhood educators starting this fall to improve wages;
- Doubling training opportunities for childcare workers through full-time college programs, workplace training and expanded dual-credit programs in high school to expand the early childhood educator workforce.
- $25 million in new funding for building and expanding childcare centres in schools to accommodate more spaces.
The Make Poverty History – Manitoba coalition gives the NDP strong praise for their plan components, which the coalition says “largely meet the platform priority as put forward by the coalition, including the target of 12,000 new spaces, elimination of a $2 dollar per day minimum fee for low income families and better training and recruitment for early childhood educators.”
Pat Wedge of the Manitoba Childcare Association has said of the NDP’s plan: “Our province recently announced an exciting vision to establish a universally available system of high-quality, community-based programs for our very youngest citizens. Moving forward will be a challenge but the report from the Early Leaning and Childcare Commission is now complete and our province has the road map we need to successfully create 12,000 new spaces”. (Province News Release Jan 12, 2016)
So far, the PCs have not made any specific childcare pledges for more spaces, but have said they are consulting and devising a more developed position for the provincial election.
However, the PCs’ critic for Family Services, MLA Ian Wishart, has floated the possibility of creating more openings for private childcare. Currently, there are very few private childcare centres in Manitoba. Those that exist fall outside of government regulated rates and charge significantly higher parent fees. The Tories have also talked about preferring a Harper-style approach of giving parents money to figure out their own childcare arrangements, rather than investing in new childcare centres and spaces. [Source: WFP, June 5, 2015]
The Tories have also voted against each of the NDP government’s 16 childcare-enhancing budgets.
The Liberals, under new Leader Rana Bakhari, have not rolled out a childcare platform yet. The Liberal Party has voted against almost all of the NDP’s budgets, each of which has increased provincial investment in childcare.