Sask. getting $27.7M from federal child-care fund to build new centres

Federal Minister Kamal Khera is framed by Canada flags during a press conference in Edmonton on July 17, 2023. David Bloom/Postmedia

“This is a huge change to how child care is being delivered, and it’s being done very fast,” said assistant deputy minister of education Sameema Haque.

Larissa Kurz

Regina Leader-Post

Saskatchewan has received an additional injection of federal money from the Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund to add more child-care centres across the province by 2026.

The $27.7 million in funding will be delivered over the next four years, to be used on infrastructure projects to build out additional spaces in new regulated and non-profit child-care centres.

“We know this is going to make such a huge difference in the lives of so many families here in Regina and across the province,” said Kamal Khera, the federal Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.

“As a government we believe that every family deserves access to high-quality, inclusive child care.”

Joining Khera for Monday’s announcement was Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Gary Anandasangaree as well as assistant deputy minister of education Sameema Haque, who attended on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan and Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill.

Haque said it hasn’t yet been decided where the new centres may be located, but the government will consider the needs of rural and remote communities, other areas with barriers to access, and how quickly spaces can be opened.

“It depends where the needs are,” said Haque. “All those factors will be considered as we receive applications and determine which initiatives will be supported.”

Saskatchewan to date has funded 9,000 new child-care spaces since signing the federal-provincial agreement in 2021. The deal promised $1.1 billion to Saskatchewan by 2026 for child-care improvements, including a pledge to offer $10-a-day fee caps and to increase regulated spaces nationally by 28,000.

Haque said since the agreement, Saskatchewan has made “incredible ground” on expanding child-care capacity and alleviating waitlist pressures.

“Access to child care has increased over 52 per cent since 2021 and that number is growing monthly,” she said. “This is a huge change to how child care is being delivered, and it’s being done very fast.”

An additional 5,000 spaces are operational as of March, with another 4,000 in development, plus 273 school-based spaces to open by 2025, she continued.

“We do understand there is a high demand and a low supply, and so we’re continuing to work really hard to expand our spaces,” said Haque.

The $10-a-day fee subsidy saves the average Saskatchewan family an estimated $7,000 per child, per year, said Khera.

Some child-care operators in Saskatchewan have expressed concern about the subsidy rollout moving too quickly in the past year, and what happens to their financial stability once the federal program ends.

“We are building new spaces and that is our target, but we do need to make the spaces that we have sustainable so we continue to look at operational grants,” Haque answered Monday.

“We regularly touch base with sector stakeholders to identify their needs and gaps, and address them from there.”