Manitoba Liberals Will End Waitlists, Promote Literacy with Early Childhood Education Plan

WINNIPEG – A Manitoba Liberal Government will create 18,000 child care spaces to eliminate the waitlist for childcare spaces in Manitoba and ensure there are more spaces as demand grows, said Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont. 


The PCs have committed to creating one sixth that amount. Under the NDP, the number of children on childcare waiting lists ballooned to about 12,000 in 2016. Under the Pallister Conservatives, the numbers on the waiting lists have exploded to more than 16,000, wages are substandard, and operating grants have been frozen. 


“Many parents face waiting lists for child care so long that they would need to put a name on a waiting list well before their child is born,” said Lamont. “A Manitoba Liberal Government will ensure there are quality and affordable child care spaces across Manitoba, especially for the families who need it most.”


The Manitoba Liberal Plan is designed to be flexible and ensure that spaces are created where they are most needed — whether it is in not-for-profit centres or in schools with K-12. Manitoba Liberals will move Early Childhood Education from under the Department of Families to Education to ensure a continuous educational experience for all Manitoba children. 


The Manitoba Liberal Plan will include a focus on early childhood literacy, including family literacy, to make sure children can read by the time they have finished Grade 2. Liberals have already announced that psychological assessment of children will be covered under medicare to ensure speedy diagnosis and treatment of learning and other disabilities so students can get the supports they need. 


Manitoba Liberals will also ensure that Early Childhood Education (ECE) workers are properly paid. As it stands, many ECE workers cannot pay the bills and there is enormous turnover in the system because they have to leave for better work, resulting in continual churn. 


Manitoba Liberals will: 

- increase the annual budget by $33 million for child care and early childhood education

- Build and support new spaces 

- Decrease the number of unfunded spaces by half 

- Increase wages to recruit and retain Early Childhood Educators

- Increase support for low income families 


Manitoba Liberals will set a goal of having 55,000 total child care spaces by September 2027, creating 2,250 spaces per year, or 18,000 new spaces. If a federal government were to increase funding, the spaces could be created more quickly. 


“In our current system, we have parents trapped in poverty and unable to work because they are trying to care for their children,” said Lamont. “Early childhood education under a Manitoba Liberal Government will give greater support and freedom to families and children alike.” 


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Backgrounder:  

Childcare and early childhood education is a great equalizer. It can set all kids on a path to a healthy and successful life and build strong communities. Early childhood education and care are important to enhance children out of home care, to enable parents to participate in the paid workforce, to reducing poverty, to enhancing social inclusion and to facilitating the entry of newcomers to Manitoba and Canada. Improving access to quality child care is one of the most important steps we can take to improve our economy, to improve our social circumstances and to improve the health of our children and of future adults in Manitoba. 


Access to quality child care and early learning is at a critical point in Manitoba due to inadequate action under previous governments. The Manitoba Child Care Association website says, “There is extremely high demand for licensed child care in Manitoba and an overall critical shortage of spaces.  As of June 2018, there were 16,605 children on the online child care registry wait list.  Of those, 12,838 required care within three months of June 2018.  Multi-year wait lists are common in most urban areas.  There is an Online Child Care Registry to help parents apply for licensed child care in Manitoba.”  (2) 


It is also to be noted that, “The positive relation between childcare quality and virtually every facet of children’s development that has been studied is one of the most consistent findings in developmental science. “ (3)


A study in Quebec shows that major improvements occur from supporting child care in the lives of women in Quebec and that the investment by the province is more than repaid by the economic returns from increased numbers of women in the job market.  (4) 


Long wait times: The long wait list and long waiting times must be addressed. The Manitoba Liberal Party platform for the first time sets a clear and achievable goal to increase the number of child care spaces in Manitoba by about 50% to reach a number that will drastically shorten the waiting list.   This number of 55,000 spaces by 2027 will represent a big step forward for Manitoba.  It is possible that the period could be shortened if there were additional federal dollars made available. 


Unfunded child care spaces:  As a result of poor policy decisions under the Pallister government, there are about 2,691 licensed spaces which are unfunded.   This is causing severe financial difficulties for some child care centres with unfunded spaces.   Manitoba Liberals will include the funding for these spaces. 


Low wages in the childcare sector:  As a result of poor policy decisions under NDP and Conservative governments, there are very low wages in the child care sector.  This results in many in this sector leaving and going to jobs such as educational assistants which pay more even though they require less training.   Manitoba Liberals will provide funding to address this issue. 


Support for children with parents with low incomes: One of the significant issues with Manitoba’s current early learning and child care system is that many parents on the lowest of incomes are not able to afford the child care and early learning even with the current subsidy.   Even at $2 per day per child for someone on a very low income, the cost is $1000 a year for a single mother with two children.  Single mothers can be caught in the situation of not being able to get child care because they are not working and cannot afford to pay even the current low fees, and at the same time not being able to apply for a job because of the uncertainty of whether they can access child care quickly when they get work.   It is paradoxical that families most in need have the least access to child care and early childhood education.  Manitoba Liberals will review the current subsidy scale and provide additional dollars to eliminate the daily fee for those with the lowest of incomes, while continuing to provide a graduated subsidy based on income for parents as their incomes increase.   


Identifying children with learning and behavioural issues early.  Child care centres have a critical role in identifying children with learning and behavioural issues early on.  When identified early on, such issues can be better addressed to enable such children to do well in school and in life.   Manitoba Liberals will ensure this aspect is recognized and that such children who need help will be able to get it. 


It is possible that the timing could be accelerated if there were to be significant additional federal funding.   In any case, the plan will be adjusted in the fall of 2023 to reflect progress in the first four years. 


The $33 million annual cost reflects: 


- $6 million to fund approximately one half of the 2,691 child care spaces which are currently unfunded, with the rest of the $2691 spaces to be funded in the second year. 

- $5 million to address the low wages in the child care and early childhood education sector.   This investment is needed to ensure adequate trained staff, as too many workers in this sector are moving on to other higher paying jobs, like education assistants in schools.  

- $5 million to provide support for those on low incomes.   Currently the rates for those on the  lowest of incomes, families who often need child care and early childhood education the most, are too high.   The subsidy for child care spaces will be adjusted to enable more low income parents to put their children in child care so that the parents can get an education or a job to improve their own prospects. 

- $12 million to fund the operating cost of 2,250 new child care spaces

- $5 million capital funding for the infrastructure for the new spaces. 


Manitoba Liberals will take these steps knowing that experience in other jurisdictions has shown that funding childcare and early childhood education has major benefits including:


1) Enabling more parents to take education and to work – to improve the skills and the productivity of our workforce in Manitoba.


2) Enabling parents who are running their own business to have access to the childcare they need so that they can operate their business and employ more Manitobans.  Several years ago, a mother with a business employing 12 people had to close her business and lay off 12 people because she could not access child care and early childhood education when she needed it.


3) Enabling children with behavioural or learning difficulties to be identified early so they can be helped earlier and do better in school and as adults – improving the economy of Manitoba and decreasing juvenile delinquency and crime.


4) Studies in Quebec have shown that there is a net gain to the provincial economy and to the provincial treasury (from taxes) as a result of investments in child care and early childhood education. (3)  This study is consistent with other research showing large benefits from investments in the health and the development of children in their early years. 


References 

1) Flanagan, Kathleen and Beach, Jane: 2016. Manitoba Early Learning and Childcare Commission. Final Report. https://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childcare/childcare_news/pubs/final_report.pdf

2) http://mccahouse.org/

3) Friendly, Martha and Prentice, Susan:   About Canada Childcare. Fernwood Publishing. 2009. 

4) Fortin P: 2017.  What have been the effects of Quebec’s Universal Childcare system on Women’s economic security?   Brief submitted to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women of the House of Commons. https://www.ourcommons.ca/content/Committee/421/FEWO/Brief/BR8806290/br-external/FortinPierre-e.pdf


Summary from Fortin 2017: Childcare fees impact strongly on mothers’ decision to work, and therefore on their employment income and economic security. A unanimous finding of the research literature is that the low-fee universal childcare system that Quebec started 20 years ago has had a spectacular impact on childcare utilization and the labour force participation of mothers of young children. With more continuity in their careers, Quebec mothers see their employment income increase more and faster not only when their children are very young, but also later when they have entered school. The low-fee universal system operates as an effective insurance policy against the financial and developmental risks that come with separation from husbands or partners, whose probability of occurrence has increased sharply in recent decades. Advances of the kind and magnitude found in Quebec mothers’ labour market performance and economic security have not been observed in other provinces, where the traditional full-fee childcare system with targeted subsidies has remained predominant.   The family is and should remain the bedrock on which child education is built. However, in a world where more than 70 per cent of mothers of very young children work, high-quality educational childcare is needed in practice to complement parental care. A low-fee universal childcare system is more effective and less costly than the traditional, purely targeted system in providing high-quality childcare. Only a universal system can catch all vulnerable children, two-thirds of whom come from middle- to high-income families. Furthermore, only the low-fee universal system can attract so many more mothers into the labour force that the additional taxes of all kinds collected by the federal and provincial governments come to exceed the additional subsidies the province has to pay over what a targeted system would otherwise cost. There is no net cost for taxpayers since the system more than pays for itself.

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