3 min read

Alberta Childcare: more than a $15 a day issue

While the campaign trail focusses on the dollar cost of childcare in Canada, early childhood development professionals in Alberta are raising the issues of accessibility and quality of care and how slashing the cost to parents could impact on these areas.

Alberta already has the country’s poorest EDI scores – meaning more children are considered under-prepared to start school here than in any other province.  In one community it was reported that as little as 16% of kindergarten aged children were ‘developing appropriately’.  The primary areas of concern are Communication Skills and General Knowledge where more than 30% of our province’s preschoolers were experiencing difficulty*.

Iris Spurrell, Project Lead with Ready 4 Learning, a community partnership in Bowness, Montgomery and Greenwood Village, has been on the front lines of education and early childhood development in Alberta for four decades.

She believes Alberta’s poor Communication Skills and General Knowledge result is key to understanding Alberta’s poor EDI results.

“Language and communication skills develop in children from birth, but they don’t develop on their own; children need stimulation, positive interactions with singing, talking and playing – along with reading aloud and lots and lots of conversation. 

More than 60% of Mom’s to under three’s in Canada are working and that means developing those skills is, to a greater or lesser extent, up to those providing childcare.  Childcare providers in Alberta are generally poorly paid and at the lower levels are inadequately trained compared with the majority of their Canadian counterparts.  That’s not their fault, it has to do with provincially set standards, so it’s more a systemic issue.   

By increasing demand for childcare, which is inevitable if the cost is reduced to just $15 per day, we will potentially further compromise the quality of care as providers inevitably will have to try to increase staff numbers in a short space of time to meet the rising demand. 

$15 dollar childcare might seem like a great policy but it could have a really negative effect on Alberta’s already poor EDI performance.”

So what does our province need to get our preschoolers back on track?

“A better understanding of early childhood development and the role it plays in society along with significant investment in this area.  A child’s ability to think, form healthy relationships and fulfill their potential is directly related to good health, nutrition, stimulation and positive interactions. 

In this day and age, where so many households have two working parents, we need childcare providers who are able to provide quality care within a system that is also accessible and affordable to families of all income levels.  $15 a day childcare is just too simplistic. 

But the EDI issue goes well beyond childhood.  Without  strong foundations in place in early childhood, we see increasing numbers of high school drop outs, instances of crime, addiction and mental health issues and, ultimately, people accessing the system more.  Not investing in early childhood development actually costs Canada billions.”

*Read more about Alberta’s  EDI scores here: http://ecmaps.ca/assetReports/Introduction.pdf

Ready 4 Learning is a Carya Community-Based Partnership which provides programs and support for families with children from newborn to five years old in the Bowness, Montgomery and Greenwood Village areas.  You can find out more about Ready 4 Learning’s work here.