Advocacy of a National Early Learning and Care Program

Subject Economic
Year 2021
Status Adopted - Active
Sponsor - Mover Lethbridge, City of
Sponsor - Seconder Spruce Grove, City of
Active Clauses

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the AUMA advocate to the Provincial Government for a National Early Learning and Care Program that will be high-quality, inclusive, affordable and accessible, developed with significant long-term sustained funding and which will create a Canada-wide early-learning and child-care system.

Whereas Clauses

WHEREAS a well-designed, National Early Learning and Care Program, that is affordable, high-quality, inclusive, and accessible, will support families economically and support more women in joining and staying in the workforce; and

WHEREAS the COVID pandemic has shown how communities and families are negatively impacted when early learning and care is not accessible, inclusive or affordable and should make us strive to fix this problem on behalf of parents, families and communities.

Resolution Background

Families and children across Canada have been impacted by insufficient childcare and learning during these uncertain times. This is further compounding poverty impacts, wage gaps and employment implications. While these concerns are being particularly felt during the pandemic, they will not disappear in the years ahead. It is vital for all orders of government to advocate on behalf of our residents for the programs that will best support families, our communities and our country. Provincial support and allocation of the funds from the federal “A Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan” starts with the fundamental idea that early learning and care programs are essential for families and municipalities at large. Communities and residents across Alberta and Canada will benefit both economically and socially because of such a program. 

Economically there are many reasons to support such a program. According to the Alberta Child Services Annual Report 2020-2021, there are 143,469 licensed and approved childcare cases for a total Albertan population of 4,444,277. The provincial government is incrementally increasing these spaces, however availability and affordability continue to be an issue for Alberta. First, without such a program, employers in Alberta and Canada could face low productivity due to parents missing work. There are also the lost wages to parents and sometimes a complete inability for parents to join the workforce. This results in a loss of income tax to governments, and from a municipal perspective could impact the ability of the low income to pay their property taxes. A parent should not be forced to choose between employment and childcare; employed parents contribute to the economy and early-educated children contribute to the future success of our economy. Second, local businesses cannot recover without workers and some workers cannot return to work because they cannot afford childcare. The local restaurants rely heavily on these individuals and were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring all have access to affordable childcare will help boost the productivity of the local economy. If families are supported by such a program, they will have more disposable income which can be used to support local businesses, to save for the future, to create educational opportunities for the parents and their children. Third, childcare is a municipal issue because every city, town, village, or rural area has different needs. A “one-size-fits-all” approach without advocacy and consultation with municipalities may result in the exclusion of key economic contributors such as Indigenous workers, shift workers, and rural/agriculture workers, all of whom are increasingly important for today’s economy and arguably are now supporting Alberta’s economy as the energy industry economic influence is strained. We also believe that pandemic times have demonstrated childcare is necessary for essential workers (the leading cohort of the Lethbridge economy) to continue effectively working as we navigate battling COVID-19 and maintaining access to all other healthcare. Finally, in Alberta, the average daily fee for centre-based child care businesses is higher than the national average:

 

Alberta 2021

Canada 2021

Child care businesses by type

Less than 18 months old children enrolled

18 months to less than 36 months old children enrolled

3 years to less than 5 years old children enrolled

5 years and older children enrolled

Less than 18 months old children enrolled

18 months to less than 36 months old children enrolled

3 years to less than 5 years old children enrolled

5 years and older children enrolled

 

Dollars

 

 

 

Dollars

 

 

 

Centre-based child care businesses

50.0A

46.0A

41.0B

33.0B

46.0A

41.0A

37.0A

29.0A

Licensed home-based child care businesses

33.0D

35.0B

37.0B

27.0D

37.0A

34.0A

33.0A

28.0B

Unlicensed home-based child care businesses

35.0C

35.0B

36.0B

27.0C

37.0A

38.0A

36.0A

30.0B

Statistics Canada. Table 42-10-0019-01 Average daily fee per child by child care business type and age group, January 2020 and January 2021   

From a social perspective, such a program will support families during these uncertain times and into the future and will help with poverty reduction. For example: according to Statistic Canada, in 2015, 14% of Lethbridge households were low-income, compared to 11% in Alberta and other cities of the same size (Grande Prairie and Red Deer). These rates were higher for single persons (27%), lone parents (26%), new immigrants (18%), Indigenous people (27%), and children (16%). Although childcare is provincially legislated jurisdiction, every municipality, including our own, has specific early learning and childcare needs. Ensuring high-quality, affordable programs would help us combat financial and social inequality. The early years of a child’s life are instrumental in their development. Children who attend high-quality early learning and care programs are more likely to succeed in future educational endeavours, attain employment, and develop the social and emotional skills required to help them be successful. Additionally, obtaining childcare for low-income earners is now not only a considerable burden to residents in Alberta but also a crisis to those who simply cannot afford childcare or do not have alternate options while navigating the current economic crisis. At a municipal level, this is a community development issue as much as it is a family issue; childcare contributes to community development plans. For example, a municipality would consider including childcare businesses in community plans; the same a municipality would consider location and need for schools. Communities largely impacted by low income, shift workers, etc., would be considered for specific childcare centres to support the families and economy as required. 

A national program such as this is supported by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as they realize that a lack of good childcare is holding back entrepreneurs and without childcare, businesses cannot be opened, which is holding back the economy and the economic recovery that our province and country are needing. A National Early Learning and Care Program that is high-quality, inclusive, affordable, and accessible, created with long-term, sustained funding, will provide solutions to many economic and social issues we face locally and nationally and is a fundamental next step to permanently pivoting our economy today and for generations to come.

Government Response

In their response to the resolution, the Alberta government indicated agreement that access to affordable, quality child care is essential for the economy and that municipalities will play a large role in ensuring and overseeing high-quality child care tailored to meet community needs. Furthermore, they indicated an intention to work with stakeholders, including municipalities, to encourage and support the creation of new child care spaces under the Canada-Alberta Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Program, a five year, $3.8 billion dollar investment to reduce fees and increase the number of licensed spaces that was signed in late 2021.

Alberta Municipalities notes

Based on a recommendation by the Alberta Municipalities Economic Strategy Committee, the board categorized the response as “Intent partially met – further action required." ABmunis administration has been in regular contact with the Government of Alberta to stress the importance of this issue to members, including ensuring applicability in small and remote communities.

The actions announced by the Government of Alberta to date largely support the intent of the resolution and administration will carefully monitor the implementation of the agreement over the next three years.