N.B. signs child-care deal

Sup­port­ing Cana­dian fam­i­lies one of gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­i­ties: Trudeau

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY JOR­DAN PRESS

New Brunswick and P.E.I. have signed child-care funding agree­ments with Ot­tawa, one year af­ter the four At­lantic prov­inces de­manded the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vide ex­tra cash to cover what they said were their unique re­gional needs.

Af­ter sign­ing a funding deal Tuesday with the Is­land gov­ern­ment, So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Du­c­los trav­elled to New Brunswick with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on Wed­nes­day to fi­nal­ize a sec­ond deal, the third since ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gan ear­lier this year.

“Since the be­gin­ning of our man­date, sup­port­ing Cana­dian fam­i­lies has been one of our gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­i­ties,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence at a child-care cen­tre in Monc­ton, where he was flanked by New Brunswick Pre­mier Brian Gal­lant and a gag­gle of pro­vin­cial and fed­eral cabi­net min­is­ters.

“Not all chil­dren are lucky enough to have a healthy en­vi­ron­ment in which to grow and that has to change.”

Trudeau said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would in­vest $30 mil­lion over three years on early learn­ing and child-care in New Brunswick, and he said the province would kick in an­other $41 mil­lion.

The de­ci­sion to sign deals comes just over a year af­ter the pre­miers of New Brunswick, New­found­land and Labrador, Nova Sco­tia and P.E.I. asked Trudeau for ex­tra child-care cash to cover the higher costs of cov­er­ing ru­ral pop­u­la­tions.

The let­ter to Trudeau was the sec­ond ef­fort by the four prov­inces to se­cure ex­tra money to address chal­lenges in their re­gion with ac­ces­si­bil­ity to reg­u­lated child care — a key Lib­eral re­quire­ment to ac­cess funding.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials re­view­ing the re­quest told Du­c­los in Oc­to­ber 2016 that the four prov­inces pro­vided no ev­i­dence that they have higher costs com­pared with other prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries. A brief­ing note at the time sug­gested the ex­ist­ing fed­eral of­fer would be more than enough to cover each province’s costs.

The Cana­dian Press ob­tained copies of the let­ters and brief­ing note un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is of­fer­ing each province a base of $2 mil­lion in an­nual funding, topped off with ex­tra cash cal­cu­lated on a per-capita ba­sis. That means roughly $3.5 mil­lion a year for P.E.I., and about $145 mil­lion an­nu­ally for On­tario, the first province to sign on.

“Over the last cou­ple weeks, we have worked with prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries to en­sure avail­able funding goes to the pro­grams they feel are the most im­por­tant,” said Du­c­los spokeswoman Em­i­lie Gaudu­chon-Camp­bell.

P.E.I. plans to spend its money on cre­at­ing more spa­ces for chil­dren whose par­ents work sea­son­ally or non-stan­dard hours, as well as Aca­dian and French-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties, and pro­vide pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment cour­ses for early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors.

A spokeswoman for Doug Cur­rie, P.E.I.’s child-care min­is­ter, said the province was pleased with the funding in its agree­ment, be­liev­ing it would address the con­cerns raised in the let­ters.

The New Brunswick gov­ern­ment says the new money will be used to cre­ate more child­care spa­ces, in­clud­ing 200 more spa­ces for in­fants and tod­dlers.

The new funding will also be used to trans­form at least 300 child-care providers into des­ig­nated New Brunswick Early Learn­ing Cen­tres, which will pro­vide more spa­ces, have lower fees and im­ple­ment in­clu­sion poli­cies for fran­co­phone mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties.

Trudeau said the cen­tres will re­duce the cost of ser­vices for al­most 10,000 chil­dren, with pri­or­ity given to low- and mid­dlein­come fam­i­lies.

A spokeswoman for Nova Sco­tia’s ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment said the province be­lieves fed­eral cash will be in­stru­men­tal in help­ing it sup­port its child-care goals.

New­found­land and Labrador’s min­istry did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment plans to spend $1.2 bil­lion on child care over the next three years un­der the three-year funding agree­ments it is seek­ing with prov­inces.

The money is part of the $7.5 bil­lion the Lib­er­als promised to spend on child care over 11 years, be­gin­ning with $500 mil­lion this year and in­creas­ing to $870 mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2026 in or­der to pay for spa­ces — or im­prove­ments — in prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries.

That also in­cludes funding for Indige­nous child-care both on and off-re­serve.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/AN­DREW VAUGHAN

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, right, and New Brunswick Pre­mier Brian Gal­lant greet chil­dren as they visit Wee Col­lege day­care and early learn­ing cen­tre in Monc­ton, N.B., on Wed­nes­day.

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