FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick and federal governments announced a child-care deal on Monday that would create 5,700 new spaces at an average cost to parents of $10 per day by 2026 and increase the wages of daycare workers.
Under the new deal, Ottawa is providing $491 million while the province is spending $53 million. The cost of child care in the province is expected to be cut in half by the end of 2022; it currently costs more than $35 a day.
"The bottom line is we're going to make life more affordable," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday in Ottawa. "We're going to grow the economy by allowing more parents — particularly moms — to rejoin the workforce, and we're going to give kids the best possible start as they begin their schooling."
Premier Blaine Higgs, who joined Trudeau via video link from Fredericton, said the agreement would offer families annual savings of $3,000, on average.
"This five-year agreement is only the beginning of long-term investments and partnerships to make sure that New Brunswick families are able to access affordable, quality and inclusive child-care services," Higgs told reporters.
New Brunswick is the latest province to sign on to the federal government's child-care plan, and only Ontario, Nunavut and Northwest Territories haven't reached a deal with Ottawa. Karina Gould, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said Monday that negotiations with Ontario and the two territories are continuing and that she's optimistic of agreements with all three.
The federal Liberals announced last spring they would spend about $30 billion over five years to cut child-care fees to an average of $10 per day across the country.
The deal would increase the wages of early childhood educators by 25 per cent over five years, to reach $23.47 per hour.
Monday's news was welcomed by the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity.
"This is a transformative agreement for New Brunswick women and parents," Krysta Cowling, the coalition's chair, said in a statement. "We have advocated for accessible, affordable and inclusive child care for decades. This is essential to women's full participation in the workforce and hence their financial independence."
But Erin Schryer, operator of Origins Natural Learning Childcare in Saint John, N.B., said that while the extra money for wages is welcomed, it isn't enough. "We had put a note to the premier in November calling for a $25-an-hour base wage immediately. We really are in a crisis today," Schryer said in an interview Monday.
"That wage would be just to stabilize the current sector without adding thousands of spaces. We have a shortage of early childhood educators," she said.
Dominic Cardy, New Brunswick's minister of education and early childhood development, said more details on wages will be released in the near future.The deal, he said, applies to all children in daycare across the province.
"We took time to closely examine this agreement because we wanted to ensure our existing daycare centres — which are often small with private owners — will be able to have their place within this agreement," Cardy said during the news conference.
Cardy said plans will be developed to provide more inclusive and flexible early learning and child care to vulnerable children, to children with disabilities and to racialized children. He said his department will begin consultations in the new year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2021.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press