The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report today that provides evidence that without urgent investment we risk losing the child care spaces we have. Sounding the Alarm: COVID-19’s impact on Canada’s precarious child care sector, by David Macdonald and Martha Friendly, finds that in Halifax, there were at least 23% fewer children in child care in the fall of 2020 compared to February of that year.
Overall, the CCPA study found a strong correlation across the country between declining enrollment and cities with high parent fees as well as those with high unemployment, further reinforcing the importance of public funding in child care.
“This report is adding to the urgency for our government to invest in a universal, quality, public child care system,” says Tammy Findlay, child care policy expert, Associate Professor, Political and Canadian Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University, “That there are 800 fewer kids enrolled, means those child care providers are lacking the parent fees that are a core part of their operating budget. The government must stop adding to the patchwork of grants and subsidies. All families and children deserve access to a seamless system and this requires operational funding that addresses low wages, high fees, and ensures quality programming is accessible to all those who want it across the province.”
“Last week 56 families, ours included, were advised that a child care centre had to close because of a lack of staff. This closure leaves families struggling to find child care, in the middle of an emerging economic and current health crisis. There are many families who desperately need a universal child care system, where they don’t have to worry whether they can find a spot and afford one,” says Alec Stratford, parent and Chair of CCPA-NS.
Early Childhood Educator, Margot Nickerson had this to say: “This report provides evidence of what we have been saying—the added pressures with the pre-primary roll-out has resulted in a shortage of ECEs. ECEs are also burning out because they cannot take time off and now have been dealing with the extra work because of COVID-19. If you don’t have enough ECEs working you cannot keep your child care centre open.”
As co-author of a report on Early Childhood Educators in Nova Scotia in 2019, Christine Saulnier says, “We warned the government that they needed to urgently address the recruitment and retention of Early Childhood Educators with a workforce development strategy that ensured decent living wages and benefits across the sector, and offered additional training spaces and bursaries to offer affordable, if not free, educational opportunities in our public post-secondary programs.”
Saulnier, who is also Director of CCPA-NS, argues that, “We must stop thinking about child care as a commodity and must start treating it like an essential service and a pivotal tool towards an economic recovery that provincial and federal governments must take responsibility for funding and managing."
The report findings specific to Halifax:
- Median monthly infant fee: $957
- Median monthly toddler fee: $853
- Median monthly preschool fees: $868
- Median preschool fees went up 1% between 2019 and 2020.
- 4% of centres said they increased fees because of the impact of COVID-19
- For-profit child care fees are 5% more expensive than non-profit’s fees in Halifax
- In Halifax there were 23% fewer children in child care in the fall of 2020 compared to February of that year. That represents over 800 kids.
Sounding the Alarm: COVID-19’s impact on Canada’s precarious child care sector is available for download on the CCPA website. The full report is based on data from a survey involving 11,000 phone calls, representing a sample of 53% of regulated full-time centre-based and regulated family child care in Canada.
For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Lauren Matheson, 902-579-9555 (cell) or [email protected]
The 2019 report on Early Childhood Educators in NS can be accessed here: Unappreciated and Underpaid”: Early Childhood Educators in Nova Scotia by Christine Saulnier and Lesley Frank