Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Jason Kenney have reached an agreement to support $10‑a‑day child-care spaces for children under six years old, but community members are uncertain about its implementation.

According to the Alberta government website, the agreement “reduces fees for parents of children not yet in kindergarten by an average of half beginning in January 2022, to an average of $10 per day child care by 2026.” Fees will be reduced by providing affordability grants directly to child-care providers so they can hopefully lower fees for all parents and raising the income threshold for child-care subsidy up to $180,000 so more families can benefit.

Rachael Robertson, executive assistant for a low-income housing company and resident of Alberta Avenue, feels this plan will positively impact families. Robertson has four children — two of them are in full-time care while the other two are in after-school care. She currently pays a combined cost of $3,000 per month. The new plan would have helped her situation by reducing costs by half. 

“For other families that are like me, this is going to mean it’s going to change their lives,” Robertson says. 

However, Robertson says she is frustrated and disappointed with how long it took to get it implemented. 

“By the time $10-a-day daycare [is] finally rolled out to its fullest, my kids are going to be out of daycare, so it’s not going to impact hardly any families that have little kids right now,” Robertson says. 

Cori Longo, Alberta representative for Canadian Labour Congress, says she is happy that the step towards affordable child-care has been taken, but finds more concerns and problems than solutions. 

“The $10-a-day daycare, which is what is being called and what is being messaged as, doesn’t actually live up to its name,” Longo says. “It’s actually kind of a point of a lot of stress and anxiety for a lot of parents, for my family.” 

Longo has long been an advocate for better child-care and even formed a child advocacy group with other parents in February 2020 after experiencing the rising costs of child-care. She had to drop her children from full-time care to part-time care as a result. 

“We’ve been dealing with this for a long time, our child-care rates increased, and then they increased again, to the point where we couldn’t afford it,” Longo says. “Once COVID hit and the fees skyrocketed […] there were a lot of spaces and a lot of vacancies because people just kept pulling their kids out because they couldn’t afford it.”

Longo says this announcement should be a point of celebration, but the UCP government has failed to communicate basic information about the program, such as the deadline to apply, who qualifies, and what the process would be like for families right now. 

Longo explains that not everyone gets $10-a-day child-care, it’s an average. “In order to get a reduction of fees, you have to qualify for the parents’ subsidy and the parents’ subsidy is another process.” 

Robertson also believes the process is complicated and there’s unanswered questions. Both Longo and Robertson find the online fact sheet confusing. 

“I got an email from my daycare the other day that they kind of laid out how it’s going to be implemented and it sounds like a royal headache and tons of red tape to jump through,” Robertson says.  

Longo says that parents have to pay upfront first and hope that their application gets approved and that they filled it out correctly. 

Robertson shared a letter her daycare provider sent to her. It was written by Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Children’s Services: “The grant will come straight to your day home operator, so you do not need to apply to benefit from reduced fees.”

Robertson says giving money directly to child-care providers and trusting that they lower costs is troubling. There are limited options when it comes to affordable care, and low-income parents may have to go to the cheapest child-care provider, as opposed to the one they want. According to Longo, each daycare centre is putting out different notifications and different information. 

“The provincial government hasn’t done anything to explain it or clarify these things,” Longo says.

Longo says the government should hold webinars and Q&A sessions where parents can actually ask their specific questions to get answers. 

“What should be a victory and a celebration of a national child-care program, in my opinion, [is] really tanking it,” Longo says.