As the ink dries on the recent landmark childcare agreement between Alberta and the federal government, what does it mean for childcare operators? Tammie Comstock, owner, and teacher of T.L.C. Preschool says it is very exciting and daunting at the same time.
Now that the deal is done, there will be a lot of details to iron out on the provincial level. Comstock says there was a town hall meeting with Minister Schulz after the announcement and says, “… there’s still a lot of logistics that we do not have, they really just gave us the information again of what was released. But there will definitely be a lot of paperwork.” Childcare facilitators are still waiting to get the information as to how the revised system will look. Since it was announced that some of the changes will go into effect as early as January of 2022, only weeks away, the timeline will be tight. Comstock says she was a bit taken aback by the January deadline. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that went, how on earth? Only because we don’t have the information yet. So, this is great for families. But as a provider, I don’t know what our next steps are yet, and they are saying sometime in the next couple of weeks which is now going into Christmas.” However, Comstock remains hopeful and cautiously optimistic that it will be a smooth process so they can get the applications through for families who will be applying for childcare space.
In a nutshell, the agreement between the two governments means that Alberta will receive 3.8 billion dollars in funding for quality childcare in Alberta. The cost to families will be cut significantly on average in half, by January 2022. The goal is to have $10 a day childcare in the province by 2026. Over 42,000 more spaces will open over the next couple of years with a focus on providing quality childcare, particularly in rural areas. Comstock says that during the town hall, Schulz referred to some rural areas as childcare desert areas with no facilities. Comstock says her take from the town hall was that the provincial government will be focusing on rural Alberta first when it comes to expansion and opening more childcare facilities and spaces.
During the press conference, it was obvious that all the women involved were emotional and passionate on the topic of affordable childcare because they could speak firsthand about the issue. As Comstock says, “As working women in the field, they know what it’s like to need to go to work or want to work to want to be able to have a great place to send their kids but financially find someplace that is viable so that they can work. So, this is an opportunity for that to be able to happen.”
For many families, the announcement seems to have been a long time in coming and some may have felt that Alberta was dragging its feet with the federal government at times, but Comstock says from a provider’s point of view, she is pleased that the provincial government and Minister Schulz stuck to their guns on certain issues such as privately run facilities. As a matter of fact, 69 per cent of the spaces in Alberta are privately run and a lot of them are female entrepreneurs. Comstock says, “I know when they went to sign this, they wanted to make sure they were honouring non-profit, public, and the private portion of the childcare.” Comstock adds, “I am happy that they took the time to make sure they were looking at all people that are running childcare facilities currently.”
Finally, it goes without saying that the $300 million in funding allocated for training and development for employees of childcare facilities will be more than welcomed.