Make it Happen: Child Care Now Nova Scotia Calls on Government to Invest in Child Care in the 2024/2025 Provincial Budget

Today, Child Care Now Nova Scotia responded to the Government of Nova Scotia’s call for feedback and ideas in advance of the next provincial budget, calling on them to increase  investments in early learning and child care to ensure the successful rollout of the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) plan in Nova Scotia—a historic, unprecedented policy incentive, and federal investment to build a strong early learning and child care system across the province.

As part of this plan, Nova Scotia signed onto a bilateral funding agreement with the federal government, earmarking provincial funds to contribute to this transformative system-building. As child care is provincial jurisdiction, Nova Scotia is responsible for ensuring these funds are put to good use—and that these funds are substantial enough to ensure the successful rollout of the CWELCC.

Child Care Now Nova Scotia is calling on the provincial government to increase its investments in three key areas, that are critical to building a strong child care system in the Nova Scotia:

  1. Expanding Access to Child Care

Families are only able to enjoy the lauded benefits of Canada’s $10-per-day plan if they are able to access a space—while some across the province now have access to affordable care, too many do not, and have little hope they will any time soon.

Through the Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund, the federal government made a $625 million in capital investment in child care over four years—however, Child Care Now estimates a total investment of $10 billion is necessary to fulfill the federal government’s promise of 250,000 spaces, by April 2026. While Nova Scotia received $19 million from this Fund—and has recently launched the Minor Infrastructure Program and Family Home Start-Up Program to expand spaces in existing centres, and promote the creation of spaces in new family home centres—more funding is critically needed to support the construction of additional child care centres across Nova Scotia.

The province recently stated that it is on track to reach the 59% provincial coverage rate set out in Nova Scotia’s bilateral agreement. However, this target is not only unclear, but not enough. 

Without distinguishing between unregulated, unlicensed after-school spaces (that are not required to be staffed by early childhood educators), and full-day child care at licensed child care centers, it is not clear what kinds of spaces are being created, and for whom. Child care spaces are not one-size-fits-all. A family in need of a child care space for their infant cannot make do with a space for a child in school—and there is a significant difference between creating an after-school space for 2 hours in an unlicensed facility, and a full-time space at a licensed child care center where children receive care from trained early childhood educators. Additional funding is needed to ensure year-round care is available to all parents who struggle to access child care for their children.

Moreover, with Nova Scotia’s rapidly growing population, the number of spaces needed to meet the province’s current coverage rate target will only increase. Additional capital funding in child care infrastructure will ensure the province has the capacity to respond not only to the present demand for child care, but also increased demand in the years to come.

  1. Investing in Early Childhood Educators’ Wages and Training

Nova Scotia cannot create more spaces without more early childhood educators to provide care and early learning to children who will fill those spaces. The recruitment and retention of early childhood educators across Nova Scotia should be a priority in the forthcoming budget.

The province has introduced a groundbreaking pension and health and dental benefits program. For the first time, early childhood educators entering the sector are able to envision a sustainable, long-term career for themselves. Nova Scotia needs to continue to support child care workers by, first, improving wages. Though the government increased its wage grid for early childhood educators by about 15% along with this new pension and benefits program, this mainly covers employee contributions. Even with public sector wage increases, it will only bring some workers up to a living wage (which, as of 2023, was $26.50 in Halifax).

As early childhood educators’ pensions are only as generous as the contributions made to them, improving wages for early childhood educators will strengthen their pensions. This will also contribute to supporting workers who, having been paid poorly throughout their careers and have been unable to put significant funds aside for retirement, will not be able to pay into this plan as long as child care workers early in their careers, and who still face retiring into poverty, living off of CPP and OAS, or delaying retirement. We implore Nova Scotia to invest in a severance plan offering compensation per years of service to child care workers approaching retirement, whose leadership and mentorship is critical to building a strong child care system.

Nova Scotia should prioritize investing in a dynamic, comprehensive strategy for the education and training of early childhood educators. By investing in post-secondary programs in early childhood education (that includes on-the-ground training and mentorship from experienced child care workers), and providing opportunities for ongoing professional development and learning to current workers, educators will be equipped with knowledge and skills necessary to provide high-quality care to children with diverse needs, backgrounds, and abilities across Nova Scotia.

  1. Building a Central Agency to Oversee Nova Scotia’s Child Care System

Transparency is crucial to holding Nova Scotia accountable to promises made in its bilateral agreement–which included creating a central public agency to oversee the development of its child care system, and the delivery of child care across the province—but has yet to follow through on it. 

Building a public system should not be left to non-profit child care centres and their volunteer boards who are already overworked. A centralized agency would take some administrative burden away from non-profit child care operators—for example, parent fees could be collected centrally—to ensure they can focus on the delivery of care and early learning opportunities to children in their region. Investing in creating this agency would go a long way to ensuring Nova Scotia’s child care system is properly resourced, and able to take advantage of this opportunity to build a publicly-funded, non-profit child care system for its children and families, and for the generations to come.

This agency should draw from community input and collaboration with the early learning and child care workforce, as well as parents, researchers, and other community stakeholders, with expertise and experience to guide the rollout of the CWELCC in Nova Scotia. Investing in creating this agency would go a long way to ensuring Nova Scotia is properly resourced, and able to take the opportunity to build a publicly-funded, non-profit child care system for its children and families, and for the generations to come.

Building a high-quality early learning and child care system is no easy task, and requires hefty upfront investments from all levels of government—but we know it will be worth it. As children gain access to high-quality child care in accessible, inclusive spaces across the country, staffed by well-supported and well-compensated early childhood educators, and families reap the benefits of access to care, the returns from these initial investments will come back in spades.

Child Care Now Nova Scotia calls on the provincial government to make it happen.

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