The Pallister government continues to fail the childcare sector, even as they are facing massive challenges that were made worse by the pandemic. In early March, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced a $11.5 million childcare trust fund which was supposed to help struggling child-care centres with facility upgrades and for “acquiring resources.” The funding application process was described as arduous, as childcare providers had to scramble to get quotes from contractors before the March 30 deadline. Childcare centres were told that they could each receive up to $25,000 through the trust, but the minister never clarified how much of the $11.5 million would be sent out to childcare centres. Unfortunately, we’ve now learned that only $100,000 total was made available and it was distributed to only eight centres, even though over 500 centres applied. This figure is less than 1 per cent of the $11.5 million the minister claimed was available.
Childcare centres we’ve spoken with have called this funding program a “hoax” and claim that the minister purposefully misled centres by making them believe that there was more money available than in reality. Rather than investing in our childcare centres, the minister instead created this limited program that fails to help the overwhelming number of centres that need it most. This program is deceptive and an insult to the centres that need financial help to stay afloat and has left childcare providers frustrated and discouraged.
Even before the pandemic, childcare centres were struggling in Manitoba due to the Pallister government freezing operating grants for the last five years. Those financial problems became even worse during the pandemic as it has dramatically reduced their revenue thanks to many children being pulled from childcare as parents work from home. To make matters worse, Minister Squires also introduced Bill 47 – the Early Learning and Child Care Act – earlier this year, which will change regulations so that for-profit childcare centres can also receive provincial funds. This is a major mistake as every study on childcare shows that for-profit childcare is more expensive and provides worse quality of care.
The Pallister government and Minister Squires should listen to the childcare sector and provide meaningful financial supports for the many centres that have applied, rather than deceiving providers.
If you’d like to provide your feedback on the government’s failed childcare assistance or have any other questions, comments or concerns, I can be contacted by email at Danielle.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling me at 204-677-2744.