Despite government changes and differences in capacities, ranging from surpluses in the west to deficit challenges in middle Canada and the east, every jurisdiction maintained their contributions to the early years in 2014, while most increased their funding over 2011.
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Newfoundland earmarked $34.5-million for full-day kindergarten to begin in 2016. Ontario’s ambitious plan for full-day kindergarten for all its 265,000, 4- and 5-year-olds was realized this year, as was the beginning of 4-year-old full-day kindergarten in the Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan expanded its prekindergarten sites. Nova Scotia is piloting integrated children’s centres in its schools, including a universal program for 4 year olds. British Columbia has approved 12 provincially branded Early Years Centres to better coordinate early childhood services.
Quebec’s 2014 budget plan commits to increasing statesubsidized child care spaces by 6,500 this year and 4,000 a year until the network is complete. Included is a 10-year, $807 million capital fund. Saskatchewan allocated $52.7 million to add another 500 child care spaces in 2014–15. Manitoba upped its budget by $5.5 million to add more spaces and enhance support to the workforce. Alberta’s child care budget increased by $18 million for access, quality and wage improvements. The 2014 budget added $17.7 million in British Columbia for new spaces, with an emphasis on spaces located in schools. Newfoundland enhanced its budget by $11.4 million.
But public funding for early childhood services still remains low and, on the child care side, is primarily directed to priming the market, encouraging operators to establish or expand services.
Public funding for regulated child care takes two approaches:
All provinces and territories provide some form of direct operating funding to child care programs. Direct funding takes the pressure off parent fees and provides a level of stability to programs that parent fees alone cannot provide. Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are the jurisdictions with more publicly-managed services, including assured operating funds, along with provincially-established wage floors and parent fees.
While funding for child care has increased since we last reported in 2011, the percentage of operating funding to fee subsidy spending has remain relatively constant.
Funding methodology also determines who participates in programs. Government subsidy levels often do not match the fees licensed centres must charge to attract and keep qualified staff. Low-income families are unable to pay for the gap between the fees charged and the subsidies governments provide, forcing them to settle for unregulated options.
Since the OECD’s embarrassing exposé, the provinces have upped their contribution from .25 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to .6 percent. This includes $3 billion added to provincial/territorial ECE budgets since 2011. Canada is now on its way to spending the 1 percent of GDP that would bring it in line with early education investments made by other OECD countries.
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