Nova Scotia, federal government, cut child care costs by 25 per cent this month

WATCH: Child care fees across Nova Scotia are being reduced by 25 per cent on average. The announcement made Friday is the province’s first step toward a $10-a-day universal child care program that was announced last summer. The news is welcome for families, but many private child care operators are still unsure how and if they can operate under the new model. Alicia Draus reports.

Child care fees in Nova Scotia will be reduced by 25 per cent this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a joint news conference with the provincial government Friday morning.

“For parents, this means hundreds of dollars more in your pocket each month,” Trudeau said.

According to a March 2021 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, families in the Halifax area pay between $853 and $957 per month for child care.

The announcement Friday is the first step in further cuts to child-care costs in the coming years.

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The federal government said in its most recent budget that by the end of 2022, it aims to reduce the average fees for regulated early learning and child care by 50 per cent.

And back in July, the provincial and federal governments pledged that child care in the province will cost an average of $10 per day in five years — a deal also struck between the federal government and most other provinces and territories.

During Friday’s briefing, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said the province is “ahead of schedule” in terms of reducing child care costs.

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He said the 25 per cent reduction in child care fees for regulated for-profit and non-profit daycares is retroactive to Jan 1.

“This means parents and caregivers in Nova Scotia are already paying less,” he said, saying the average parent or caregiver will see a reduction of $200 per month for a toddler in care.

He said “procedurally,” parents will continue to pay their current rate until April 1. They will then receive a cheque or credit, he said.

After April 1, reduced rates will be available through centres that have joined the Canada-wide early learning and child-care system.

“Child care costs are a barrier for so many families. For families struggling to balance the cost of child care with the need to work, paying 25 per cent less in fees will make a real difference,” Houston said.

“Making child care more affordable helps address child poverty. It supports women and supports families.”

Houston also said the province is adding 1,500 new, not-for-profit child care spaces this fall, which is part of a plan for 9,500 new early learning and child-care spaces by March 31, 2026.

Kendra Slawter, a mother who spoke at the news conference, says she struggled to find child care after she tried to re-enter the workforce following the birth of her son.

She said she was “ecstatic” to hear more child care spaces will be added later this year.

“More spaces would mean more opportunities for parents to work and receive income,” she said. “Many people cannot work because of the limited spaces.… That affects families financially.”

Jessie-Lee McIsaac, an assistant professor at Mount Saint Vincent University and a Canada Research Chair in early childhood, said the early years of a child’s life are very important for lifelong learning, health and well-being.

“Not only does this agreement address the critical needs of families, it also offers a shift in the way that we think about and deliver early learning and child care in the province,” she said.

“We’re moving from what some have called a ‘patchwork of care’ to a system that places value on the need for a diverse and highly trained workforce.”

Compensation for ECEs

Becky Druhan, Nova Scotia’s minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, thanked early childhood educators (ECEs) for their “amazing work.”

She said the province is continuing to implement its Excellence in Early Childhood Education workforce strategy, which would result in higher wages and better benefits to help attract and retain early childhood educators.

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However, Druhan was unable to say when exactly ECEs can expect to see a pay increase, only saying the work is ongoing and on track to be complete some time this year.

She was also unable to say how large of a pay increase they might see. ECE wages in Nova Scotia usually range between $15 and $21.

This month, she said the province is working with the federal government to offer bursaries to 300 ECEs who are currently enrolled in a full-time program.

These bursaries range from $3,250 to $7,500, said Druhan, “and support our work to develop a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

“In addition to the supports for ECEs, we will work hand-in-hand with providers to ensure they have the opportunity to become part of a historic system that benefits children, families and the economy,” she said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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