What our Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care Sector Currently Needs; this Director’s Perspective

The Canadian Goverment has sent out a call for concepts for early learning and child care innovation, to seek innovative proposals. The letter is shown below. And I cannot help but share my views on this topic, as someone who has worked these last 19 years in Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care Sector, and as a Director if a licensed nonprofit centre. 

This isn’t the typical type of Blog Post I write for our SJMS Website; but part of Advocating for this field that I love so much, is sharing perspectives and information with the broader public. So I have decided to dedicate this Blog Post to this crucial topic. 

  A Call for Innovation sent out this month in Manitoba. 

A Call for Innovation sent out this month in Manitoba. 

I’ve been going back and forth with this letter for a few weeks now, seesawing between feeling energized and hopeful that at a national level there is potential for progress for the Canadian ELCC field; and also severe frustration and disillusionment about this. I’ve started writing a proposal application three times. And each time stopped, due to frustration and feeling like this isn’t what we need right now for our sector.

My reasons for this mercurial back and forth perspective revolves around these following points:

A. They’ve given a handful of WEEKS to create an innovative, inspired concept that would address the needs of Canadians (educators and families). And that’s not enough time for something this complex. Which is to say the least - frustrating.

B. I truly and fully believe Canada needs an Universal Child Care System - but the reality is, right now each Province and Territory is so drastically different in its fiscal policies and funding models, training credentials, operating models, and community support services. And some (like Manitoba, where I work) are at critical, dire points - we cannot continue to operate how we are under the Provincial mandates, they’re isn’t nearly enough funding for what Manitoba needs. 33,000 children (and growing) are on wait lists to access licensed child care - that’s 33,000 children who NEED childcare, but CANNOT get a space.

That’s 33,000 families who CANNOT participate to their fullest potential in our Manitoba economy because they can’t access the child care they need. Research the stats for what lack of childcare correlates to for Canadian females in the workforce. It is staggering and heartbreaking.

C. We are losing trained Educators every day, who are leaving our field to work in other economy sectors because they cannot afford to work for such low wages. So not only do we lack enough trained qualified staff in Manitoba to operate the centres in existence without Provisionals on the Licenses due to lack of Trained Staff; we keep losing the ones we DO have. And we don’t have more to open the spaces needed to give those 33,000 children a licensed spot in a centre.

D. I have so many ideas and innovations I want to propose. But.... I don’t see how they would help WHERE we actually NEED help right now.

E. I wish the federal government would take that 100 million, and divide it between the provinces and territories, so they could use it where each crucially needs it. Especially for Manitoba. Then, once we’ve improved our own individual Provincial ELCC, focus on a federal plan to improve.

F. Only 10 million would be allocated over the first two years. That number is a drop in the bucket to what would be needed to scale any model across the country.

 In my opinion, the six things Manitoba’s ELCC Sector needs right now:

  1. Funding. Give us back our 2% Annual Operating Grant Increases.
  2. Funding. For training more ECE’s, both to staff the centres currently in existence, and to staff programs that haven’t been created yet.
  3. Funding. To pay our ECE’s competitive wages, to both attract them to our sector, and then KEEP them in our sector.
  4. Funding. To open more licensed child care spaces, to meet the needs of the 33,0000 children who need a child care space and cannot get one.
  5. Funding. Stop denying children with additional support needs the Inclusion Support Staffing Grants, so they (truly the most vulnerable in our early years system) have equal access to high quality early years education. This has improved over the last 12 months, but is still an ongoing issue with Provincial budget cuts.
  6. Recognition of the important role ECE’s play in our society. Fight ignorance with education, so people stop calling us “glorified babysitters”.
  7. For our provincial government to stop using what I call the “Tictac Approach”; I equate it to giving a starving person a Tictac, and stating you’ve “helped”. Yes, the Tictac may taste good, and address a minuscule amount of their hunger, but that’s all. Thanks, but as an ECE for 19 years, and being a Director who hustles each day to keep a centre afloat, I’ve had enough Tictacs, and would like to see some real food presented to the ELCC Sector now.

Each Province knows it’s own barriers and current needs. So give each the money so they can work on addressing those needs. THEN, and only then, call for Innovation to tackle the bigger issue of a Canadian Universal System. Because 100 million cannot achieve that without first addressing the needs of each individually. If it could, or it was more money, I’d be all for this call for innovation. 

 But the reality is - it isn’t enough money. So use what money there is to fix what can be fixed, and create a real long term plan that includes the appropriate amount of funding that is needed for a Universal System. Until that can be done, use the money in the way it best serves Canadians affected by the ELCC barriers.

That’s just this Director’s Perspective.