Families across Nunavut are now paying an average of $10 a day for child care under a Canada-wide plan, 15 months earlier than initially expected and three years ahead of the national goal.
The federal government has signed child-care agreements with every province and territory. It aims to increase the number of regulated child-care spaces across Canada and reduce fees by an average of 50 per cent by the end of 2022 and $10 a day by 2026.
In signing a $66-million agreement in January, Nunavut planned to reach the $10-a-day mark for licensed child care facilities by March 2024 and create 238 new spaces by the end of March 2026.
The territory has said the fee reduction would see families save up to $55 per day per child beginning Thursday. It added that 30 new spaces have been established so far and employees at licensed centres received retention bonuses this year.
“Bringing fees for licensed child care down to $10 a day will create opportunities for families to improve their well-being and contribute to Nunavut’s economy,” Pamela Gross, Nunavut’s minister of education, said in a statement earlier this month.
Costs of living are high across Canada’s North, from housing and groceries to child care.
“I know child care is expensive in a lot of places. It just seems like it’s really insane up here,” said Madison Stride, who lives in Yellowknife, is mother to a toddler and is expecting her second child early next year.
The N.W.T. signed a $51-million agreement in December 2021 with plans to create 300 new child-care spaces and reach $10 a day by March 2026. The territory said fees have already decreased by an average of 50 per cent with families saving up to $530 a month per child.
“It’s definitely been great saving money,” Stride said. “I really am hoping they take it further.”
Stride said reducing fees to $10 a day would mean families could save for things such as emergencies, health costs that aren’t covered by benefits and post-secondary education.
“It’s one less thing to think about, to worry about,” she said.
But Stride, who is also on the board for Little Spruce Daycare Association, a non-profit working to develop a new daycares in the city, said the current drop in fees has also made finding child care more competitive.
“It was hard to find a licensed child-care spot before and now it’s darn-right impossible.”
Early-learning and child-care providers in the N.W.T. criticized the initial rollout of funding, saying it failed to prioritize staff shortages and the lack of spaces.
In October, the federal and territorial governments announced $4.6 million between 2022 and 2024 to enhance wages for the sector. It said about 300 educators would benefit with licensed programs receiving more than $12,700 per full-time equivalent position in the first year and $16,250 in the second.
The N.W.T. said it created 67 new child-care spaces during the last fiscal year.
Yukon’s early learning and child-care system has been recognized as a national leader. It began its own universal child-care program and lowered fees to an average of less than $10 a day before signing a more than $41-million agreement with the federal government in July 2021.
The territory said since its program began in April 2021, it has created 236 new child-care spaces. It also has one of the highest minimum wages for fully qualified early childhood educators in Canada at approximately $30 an hour.
—Emily Blake, The Canadian Press