Nova Scotia parents and caregivers can expect to spend less on child care this year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Tim Houston announced on Friday that child-care fees in the province will reduce by 25 per cent immediately, and by 50 per cent by the end of the year in an update on the funding agreement between the two levels of government.
“For parents, this means hundreds of dollars more in your pocket each month, whether to put healthy food on the table or sign up the kids for soccer camp or after-school activities,” said the prime minister in a news conference.
In July, the province and the federal government committed to the goal of $10 per-day daycare and 9,500 new child-care spaces by 2026, with the help of $605 million in federal funding over the next five years.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce we’re actually ahead of schedule,” said Houston. He said the early decrease in fees, retroactive to Jan. 1, will save families $200 a month on average. There will also be 1,500 new not-for-profit child care spaces beginning this fall.
Houston said the province is on track to meet the rest of its goals by 2026.
“Each one of these positive changes will have an incredibly positive impact for our children and families for generations to come,” he said. “Making child care more affordable helps address child poverty, it supports women and it supports families, and this is just the beginning.”
Parents will continue to pay their current rates for child care until April 1, when they can choose to receive either a cheque or credit from their daycare centres to reflect the change in price.
Higher wages and benefits for early childhood educators
Work continues on a plan to hike wages and benefits for early childhood educators.
This month, the province is offering bursaries to 300 early childhood educators currently enrolled in a full-time early childhood education diploma program, said Nova Scotia Education Minister Becky Druhan.
Druhan did not say how much child-care workers’ pay will increase, but said the plan will be announced later this year.
Parents weigh in
Four Nova Scotian parents attended Friday’s virtual news conference to speak about how the new program will affect families.
Kendra Slawter said she struggled to re-enter the workforce after her son was born because of a lack of spaces in daycares, resulting in financial problems for her family.
“More spaces would mean more opportunities for parents to work and receive an income,” she said.
Neil and Kirsten Stephen are the co-owners of Dartmouth-based This Is Marketing. Neil Stephen said the high cost of child care prevents his younger employees from entering the housing market. He said one of their employees is due to have a baby in April.
“She’s going to be in a much, much better position two years from now than she otherwise would have been,” he said.
“The idea of not wasting their money on rent is now going to be a possibility because they’re not making a mortgage payment for childcare every single month,” Kirsten Stephen said.
Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, an early childhood development researcher at Mount Saint Vincent University, praised the agreement for placing value on the need for a “diverse and highly trained workforce who will also be fairly compensated.”
“We’re seeing the rising cost of living with the challenges coming out of COVID, meaning that having this significant reduction of, you know, 200 bucks a month right now, but more to come for so many families across Nova Scotia, is going to make a huge difference,” said Trudeau.
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