Sask. Childcare workers say they are scrambling to prepare after the province rushed rolling out the $10-a-day program
Saskatchewan’s opposition NDP and several childcare leaders say the Saskatchewan party government has rushed to reach an agreement on federal and provincial childcare, and daycare centers are now scrambling to get their facilities ready.
The federal and provincial governments announced earlier this month that the goal of having regulated childcare in the province that costs an average of $10 a day for children under the age of six will be met by April 1 — three years ahead the original goal of 2025 – 26, first set in August 2021.
The new pricing system applies to parents with children under the age of six attending a licensed center full-time, but does not cover part-time, hourly and weekly childcare places.
Day care workers said that providing them with these services will therefore be difficult and expensive.
Part-time childcare in Saskatchewan means nine days of childcare per month. After these nine days, the child’s family must find another place for them.
However, without a large range of day care centers, the waiting lists can be years long.
The opposition also said the accelerated rollout of $10-a-day childcare won’t really help parents get back to work.
During Question Time in Parliament Tuesday afternoon, Saskatchewan NDP leader Carla Beck said childcare workers were not consulted before the rollout was announced.
Now daycares “may be forced to turn down families who rely on part-time places and try to do more with less,” Beck said.
Prime Minister Scott Moe blamed the federal government for the lack of consultation but said the province was “able to continue increasing the number of places we’ve been increasing for a number of years” and is now approaching nearly 23,000 places.
Education Secretary Dustin Duncan also criticized the federal government’s role in the agreement.
“Because we essentially run a child care system and we have a federal government that doesn’t run child care operations[ing] himself in that area…we’re trying to reconfigure the plane while it’s still in the air,” he said.
“This has created some challenges along the way.”
However, Beck stated that the implementation of the federal-state agreement three years earlier than planned would ultimately be bad for the economy.
“Squeezing part-time parents out of nonexistent childcare places will force more people, mostly women… out of their jobs,” she said.
Meara Conway, the NDP’s childcare and early education critic, said the province may not have intended to create childcare problems, but they could have been avoided if the government had consulted providers before the announcement.
“If this government doesn’t start listening… [child-care providers] may be forced to reduce the total number of children they can care for, meaning more families will have to compete for fewer places,” Conway said.
More facilities, better wages needed: Director
Brittany Pelletier, a home caregiver in Saskatoon, told Legislature reporters Tuesday afternoon that the childcare agreement means there will be no more subsidized fees for drop-in and part-time childcare places beginning July 1.
“Not only will this result in lost income for providers, but it will also affect our ability to provide accessible care to more families who have been using part-time and drop-in spaces,” she said, adding that the change nearly cost her will be $500 a month.
“There’s no benefit in offering that service anymore,” Pelletier said.
Nichole Kessel, director of Whitewood Wiggles and Giggles Childcare Centre, has only been in business for seven months but has already left four staff.
Now she is in a hurry to implement new childcare regulations.
“We tried to ask for an extension, we tried to get them to listen to us and … no,” Kessel said.
“We need a month for a contract change and we expect the same from the families,” she said.
“But the government is suddenly saying that in three weeks we have to change how we run our facilities. It’s unmanageable, especially for Moosomin and Carnduff. They have forever operated their facilities on an hourly basis. They don’t even know where to start.”
Kessel says many more childcare facilities need to be built and that early childhood educators need better wages and better access to training.
Duncan acknowledged there is still work to be done, but said the transition to $10 day care was accelerated because the province signed the federal childcare agreement midway through the fiscal year and didn’t want to waste money.
“I don’t think we can increase the number of places as quickly as I think people would like because of course we need manpower [and] it’s going to take a lot of time,” Duncan told reporters.
“And if we had focused more on that before we worked really hard to get to $10 a day [agreement] … I think that would have satisfied many people. But we probably would have left a lot more money on the table.”