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New advocacy group demands more New Brunswick child-care programs

Click to play video: 'New N.B. advocacy group wants to support expansion of childcare'
New N.B. advocacy group wants to support expansion of childcare
WATCH: With significant investments in childcare over the last year, a new advocacy group is stepping up to ensure there is government accountability. Childcare Now New Brunswick says it aims to support the expansion of the sector, starting with addressing the labour shortage. Robert Lothian reports. – Nov 24, 2022

A newly formed advocacy group is calling on the New Brunswick government to ensure there are an adequate number of licensed child-care programs.

The New Brunswick chapter of Child Care Now, which advocates for a publicly funded non-profit child-care system, launched on Thursday in a virtual news conference.

“It’s timely and essential to put in place an organization that can help parents and citizens advocate for the changes they want,” said the group’s co-ordinator, Isabelle Forest.

The establishment of the coalition comes nearly a year after the provincial and federal governments inked a deal to slash the costs of child care.

Read more: Trudeau, Higgs promise $10-a-day child care across New Brunswick within next 5 years

However, Morna Ballantyne, the executive director of Child Care Now, said this prompted a spike in demand from families who previously couldn’t afford these services.

“Now what we’re seeing is more and more parents are signing up, and we’re seeing growing frustration, even anger, that not all can benefit from the lower fee initiative,” Ballantyne said.

In 2021, New Brunswick received just under $56 million from the federal government for child care, said Ballantyne.

Through 2022-2023, she added, the amount increased to $82.6 million, with it expected to continue to rise until 2025-2026, when the province will receive just under $137 million.

The group stated a lack of competitive wages have left many child-care operators without a full staff.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick parents want all ages to be considered in childcare cost reduction'
New Brunswick parents want all ages to be considered in childcare cost reduction

The highest level of Early Childhood Educators can make up to $23.47 an hour, said Ballantyne. When asked about New Brunswick wages compared to other provinces, she said the sector lacks data.

“We don’t have data to know whether or not qualified early childhood educators are leaving New Brunswick to go to Quebec to work for higher wages,” she said.

“We do know that in a number of provinces, qualified early childhood educators are getting their certification and never working in community-based child care.”

In the coming weeks, Forest said they will continue to recruit operators and stakeholders to bolster their voice. In addition, a meeting with Bill Hogan, the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, is expected to discuss an action plan and workforce strategy.

“Well, the impact when the parents don’t have a place to bring their children at an affordable price (is) the women, the new mothers, can normally not go back to work or go back to school, so they have to stay home, (and) lose some salary,” Forest said.

Read more: New Brunswick reduces child-care fees by 50 per cent

Minister Hogan was not made available for an interview on Thursday.

In a statement to Global News, Morgan Bell, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said the province held engagement sessions during the spring and summer.

“The department has heard from families who have told us finding infant care when returning from parental leave has been one of their biggest obstacles. That is why we are prioritizing the creation of infant spaces to support new parents in returning to work,” Bell said in an email.

The statement noted Policy 901 aims to identify and target areas of greatest need when it comes to the allocation of designated spaces for preschool-aged children.

As for wages, Bell said the wage grid is a tiered pay structure, which will be reviewed annually to ensure the province is “offering competitive wages.”

Bell stated because early learning and child-care facilities are private businesses, they are responsible for maintaining data pertaining to their waitlists.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick cutting day care fees in half ahead of schedule'
New Brunswick cutting day care fees in half ahead of schedule

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