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Alberta renews federal funding for child care, has yet to sign up for Ottawa's subsidy plan


Alberta will continue to get money from Ottawa for its child care program, but has not yet signed up for its share of $27-billion federal pot for such services, much to the Official Opposition's criticism.

The province announced on Friday a renewal of the Canada–Alberta Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, which will see the federal government provide more than $100 million for program subsidies and recruitment this year.  

According to Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, $45 million will be used to make child care more affordable for working parents and $56 million will be spent on professional development and workforce recovery and retention.

She called the extension a "great first step" in negotiations with Ottawa.

But the NDP was quick to point out Alberta hadn't yet accessed federal funding B.C. and Nova Scotia are using to implement $10/day child care programs.

The two provinces were the first to take advantage of a national program Justin Trudeau's Liberal government introduced in April to cut fees and create spaces. Trudeau pledged $27.2 billion over five years to the initiative in the most recent budget.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley figures Alberta's UCP government leaves about $1 million on the table each day it doesn't take advantage of the money pot, and called Friday's announcement a "bait and switch."

When asked why Alberta hadn't yet worked out a deal with Ottawa, Schulz said the province "didn't have quite all the information that some of the other provinces had" but that it had received a term sheet this week outlining the parameters of the funding and could soon start negotiations officially.

She said her government was working to make sure Albertans had a variety of options. "

"Alberta is not the only province looking for flexibility," the minister told CTV News Edmonton. "We know that every province has a different system and parents have different needs, so we are very optimistic we can get a fair deal.

"We know that childcare matters. Access to high quality, safe, affordable childcare absolutely matters for Alberta working parents, but especially for women."

Notley called the suggestion that a $10/day program would be one-size-fits-all trite, inaccurate and unrealistic.

"(The Canada–Alberta Early Learning and Child Care Agreement) is a lovely funding program but it is not going to make any significant change in the lives of people who are looking for either a $25/day program or $10/day program," she told press.

"The longer the UCP waits on this deal, the worse off Albertans will be."

According to Schulz, Alberta spends about $400 million each year on child care, a large chunk of which -- $280 million – is used to subsidize the cost on families.

Parents with an income of $75,000 or less have access to subsidies, which brings the cost down to about $13 a day, Schulz said.

Recent studies pin the monthly cost per child at around $1,000 – roughly $30 a day.

Jennifer Usher, industry expert with the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta, told CTV News Edmonton that the deal means Albertans are still relying on subsidies to make childcare affordable – which comes with gaps in the system.

“A middle income family, you may not be eligible for the subsidy, and so then you’re having to pay the full cost,” Usher said.

“It is not building a true (childcare) system, and it does not truly address affordability for families.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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