HALIFAX – Nova Scotia says it will create more than 100 new child care sites and boost subsidies for families under a $35 million deal with Ottawa that aims to make care more accessible and affordable in the province.
During a ceremony at a suburban Halifax child care centre on Wednesday, Nova Scotia became the sixth province or territory to sign on to an agreement reached in June known as the Multilateral Learning and Child Care Framework.
“Today’s agreement is a big step towards making sure that Nova Scotian children get the best start in life and that parents can succeed in the workplace,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of families, children and social development.
“That’s particularly important for mothers. If we are serious about gender equity we also need to be serious about child care.”
Funding in the three-year deal is to create 15 new regulated child care centres and 90 new home-based child care sites across the province. Education Minister Zach Churchill said in total the new sites would serve about “1,000 students.”
He said the money would also be used to boost subsidies for 675 more children with families making between $35,000 and $70,000 a year.
Churchill said the funding could see the province subsidize up to 75 per cent of the cost of a space per child.
“The cost per family is approximately between $8,000 and $10,000 per child per year,” said Churchill. “We do subsidize those spaces already and with this additional subsidy that will bring the cost for those families down to between $2,500 and $3,000 if they are at $35,000 household income.”
According to the province, the average cost of infant child care is $10,660 per year.
“Our hope is that by addressing the affordability barrier to child care we will see more families use it,” Churchill said. “But a greater challenge here is also space and where it’s available, so this is also about expanding these critical centres to areas of the province that currently don’t have them.”
Premier Stephen McNeil said a portion of the funding could be added to the current budget, and the rest spent over the next two fiscal years on top of the $53 million that has been allotted by the province.
“The investments that we are making … will pay huge dividends not only for those children but for the economic health of this province,” said McNeil.
Neither Churchill or McNeil were able to say exactly where the new money would be spent.
A government spokeswoman later sent an emailed clarification saying details would be released at a later date.
“Results of the early years consultation will be released shortly and that will inform the strategic growth plan for the province. That plan will also be released shortly and will identify the areas of the province where new space will be developed.”
In addition to Nova Scotia, Ottawa’s funding framework has so far been signed by Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Ontario and Nunavut.