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'Rolling childcare closures' could be coming to Alberta, association warns

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Frustrated by daycare subsidy agreements, an association representing 30,000 childcare spaces in Alberta warned Friday that rolling closures may be coming to a daycare near you.

The Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs (AACE) has been publicly raising concerns for weeks about how operators are being paid by the provincial government.

"We're not looking to disrupt the lives of parents or upset anyone," AACE Chair Krystal Churcher told CTV News Edmonton.

"As operators, our main concern has always been the quality of care, and children, and we're not feeling that's being represented in the program, federally or provincially."

Churcher called the closures "a last resort." She wouldn't disclose how many childcare centres could be closing, when that may start, or place a dollar figure on how much additional funding her association is seeking.

"I think at any time we may see closures of any of those spaces. But we're always hoping that's not where we end up," Churcher said.

"Maybe a small disruption to the system would bring the awareness that parents need to really become educated on the concerns for this program."

The association has three main issues: the amount of time it takes Alberta to pay, rates that have been frozen below inflation and accounting costs that are shouldered by providers.

The AACE called the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) Agreement, better known as $10/day daycare, an "underfunded and poorly developed government program."

Churcher is calling for Alberta to intervene with emergency funding to help keep daycares open but also doubts the long-term viability of $10/day systems.

"Things are costing so much more, and inflation rates are so much higher…What can you actually buy for $10?" she asked.

"I don't see that it's going to be a successful program unless we stop and rebuild it in a way that makes sense for our province and our families in Alberta."

Chucher said operators feel "caught in the middle" between Alberta and Ottawa, and are being squeezed by a formula that doesn't add up for them.

Last month, a daycare operator in Sherwood Park said her business is "bleeding money" and she wished she never signed onto the $10/day daycare plan.

At the time, the province's minister for children and family services said he had an "open door" to finding solutions with operators, but Churcher said that hasn't resulted in any solutions.

In a Friday afternoon statement to CTV News Edmonton, Alberta's Minister of Children and Family Services Searle Turton said the vast majority of child care operators in the province are happy with the current agreement.

"It is disappointing that the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs, which represents approximately 10 per cent of child care operators in the province, is choosing to scare families by threatening to disrupt their lives and livelihoods, instead of engaging in good faith on the development of a new early learning and child care funding formula," he wrote.

Turton said the government has already committed to a three-per-cent-per-year funding increase, $27.2 million in one-time grants, $12.4 million this year to assist with financial reporting requirements, as well as wage top-ups, incentives, subsidies and professional development funding.

CTV News Edmonton has also reached out to the federal government for reaction to this story.

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