Question Period Highlight – Affordable Childcare

October 21, 2014

Your NDP MLAs are hard at work in the legislature this fall, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including job loses since Stephen McNeil became Premier, and how the Liberals’ health board amalgamation distraction is causing their government to take their eye off what really matters – front line care. Here is a question NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald asked Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil about affordable childcare.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier.

We all know that it can be a real challenge for young families with young children to acquire affordable child care in Nova Scotia. Unaffordable child care can make life very difficult for a growing family, and the average cost of child care is high enough to consume a significant portion of many young families’ household incomes.

My question to the Premier is, would the Premier please tell us what is the cost for a child care space in the Province of Nova Scotia for an infant – an unsubsidized child care space?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I’ll ask the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development to respond.

KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, as the minister responsible now for early learning and early childhood, I think it’s important to note that when the department was transferred from Community Services to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, we recognized that there were certainly some areas within the child care sector that needed to be addressed. One of those, as the member would know, has to do with the wages we pay to our early childhood educators, as well as the spaces that we have available, the subsidized spaces.

There has not been a review of what we have, how we are delivering, where are the efficiencies, where can we better deliver – so that review is certainly what we need to do before we continue down a path that may be the wrong one.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the cost of a monthly child care space for an infant in the Province of Nova Scotia on average is $825 a month, and for a toddler it’s about $700 a month. I will table a chart that shows these costs in comparison to other provinces in Canada that comes from a national organization called Rethink Child Care.

Mr. Speaker, in the Province of Quebec on an annual basis, child care for parents with infants costs on average less than for Nova Scotian parents – $8,076 a year. Imagine having two kids and having to face these incredible costs if you are going to remain in the workforce.

My second question to the Premier is, what is the government’s plan to address the unaffordability of child care in Nova Scotia, to ensure parents can remain in the workforce?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: I see the Interim Leader of the Democratic Party had the answer to her question. It is unfortunate that when she had four years in power, she actually didn’t do something about affordability.

I think the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development answered that question in the first response. This government is continuing to work with community organizations, ensuring that there will be child care spaces that are affordable across this province for Nova Scotia families.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, after the mess that this crowd has made over 250 years, it really wasn’t possible to fix everything in four years, but let me say this to the Premier. The Ivany report, Now or Never, states that Nova Scotia has both a declining birth rate and a declining labour force participation rate, and hopefully we can all agree across party lines that none of us can afford to ignore an issue like affordable child care that could help retain young families and improve labour market participation.