NWT joins nine provinces and Yukon in new $10-a-day national child care plan

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Published December 15, 2021 at 7:10 pm

OTTAWA — The federal government has agreed to a $51-million deal to slash child care fees and add 300 new spaces in the Northwest Territories.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Caroline Cochrane finalized the deal in a meeting Wednesday in Ottawa.

The last Liberal budget in April promised to spend $30 billion over five years to realize a national daycare program that would cut fees in half by the end of 2022, and to an average of $10 a day within five years.

The N.W.T. deal is the 11th to be signed with provinces and territories, and the territory is planning to accelerate the cost-cutting so that fees across the territory are slashed in half by the end of this coming March. 

The deal will also add 300 new licensed spaces by 2026 to be provided only by not-for-profit child care centres and home day cares.

It includes a retention incentive to keep child care workers in the territory, and a new wage grid to ensure better salaries.

“Child care is good for parents, it’s good for kids, but it’s also good for the economy,” Trudeau said.

He added the pandemic highlighted how critical quality and affordable child care is to ensuring parents can work.

The deal could mean a family in the N.W.T. will eventually save almost $10,000 a year in child care fees.

Premier Cochrane said the deal will not only make child care more affordable, in some communities it will mean access to licensed child care for the very first time.

“One of the best investments that governments can make to influence a child’s life is to provide families with the option to access high quality early learning in their community,” she said.

British Columbia was the first province to ink a deal in early July, worth $3.2 billion over five years, and eight provinces and now two territories have followed suit. More than $16.8 billion has been allocated to the deals so far over the next five years.

Ontario and Nunavut are the only holdouts and Trudeau said after meeting Tuesday with Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok that he expects a deal with that territory will be finalized early in the new year.

Talks are continuing this week with Ontario, but Premier Doug Ford has said he wants more money to keep the program sustainable beyond the five-year start up, and recognition for the $3.6 billion the province already spends to provide full-day kindergarten.

Seven provinces and the N.W.T. offer full-day kindergarten for five-year-olds.  Ontario is the government that also offers it to four-year-olds

Trudeau is scheduled to speak with Ford by phone Thursday.

The April budget promised more than $9 billion annually after the first five years to keep the programs going.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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