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Federal government announces new childcare supports

Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister Gary Anandsangaree appeared at the Children and Family Centre at Confederation College to make the announcement.

THUNDER BAY — The 2024 federal budget is in, bringing with it a slew of new incentives for parents, caregivers, and educators alike.

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and the Honourable Gary Anandsangaree, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, made an appearance at the childcare centre on Confederation College's campus to announce several new fiscal measures the federal government is taking to ensure equitable access to childcare and education for those who are looking to break into the early childhood education sector.

New measures include a Child Care Expansion Loan Program with over $1 billion in low-cost loans and $60 million in non-repayable grants, $48 million over four years towards student loan forgiveness for rural and remote early childhood educators (ECEs), and an investment of $10 million into increasing the capacity to train ECEs across the country.

With a specific focus on expansion of space and rural communities, these new measures are aimed at places like Greenstone, Nipigon, Red Rock, Dryden, Fort Frances, and the many First Nation communities in the northwest region.

Speaking to Dougall Media, Minister Anandsangaree alluded to the importance of these funding initiatives and what they mean for the future of childcare in Canada.

“This particular announcement is about building capacities to ensure we have more spaces available - particularly in more rural communities. It’s also about ensuring that we have a workforce that is able to fill these very important roles and it’s an investment into our future. It will definitely have a positive impact on Indigenous communities across Northern Ontario as well as across the North and within Indigenous communities across Canada,” Anandsangaree said. 

The addition of more childcare spaces will meet a particularly pressing need felt in Thunder Bay, across the region and the country.

Shane Strickland, dean for the School of Health, Negahneewin, and Community Services at Confederation College, said there are over 1,000 children on the wait list to enroll in the college’s childcare program.

“We can’t meet that demand, so this expansion should help all of our daycare centres in Thunder Bay and across the region to meet the demand,” Strickland said.

Anna Morrone, manager of the Childcare and Family Centre, said many school-age programs that used to be offered at schools in the region are being shut down, leaving parents “desperately” looking for school-age care.

She also said infant and toddler care are equally - if not more - in demand.

Minister Hajdu said the new funding announcements are directly aimed at increasing the “footprint” of childcare.

“Part of what we’re trying to address is the growing demand for childcare. It’s great news - it means that people want to access quality childcare and the $10 a day childcare plan is unfolding as it should, but it means that there’s an increased demand,” Hajdu said.

“We’re trying to ensure that there are financial supports for organizations that want to expand their footprint to create new spots and be a good partner to provinces, territories, municipalities, and not-for-profits who are doing that.”

Hajdu also touched on loan forgiveness and how it could benefit communities who are struggling to retain “talent” by giving graduates an “extra push” and incentive to work in more rural areas.

She echoed Strickland and Morrone’s remarks about demand, stating that this is the perfect opportunity for the federal and provincial governments to “accelerate” their work together to fulfill a need.

“We don’t want people to be waiting on wait lists for years and years. We want people to be able to access quality childcare no matter where they live, in a period of time that allows them to get back to work or go to school or pursue their endeavours,” Hajdu said.

“The federal government can be a good partner by providing these fiscal supports.”

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Austin Campbell is a local journal initiative reporter covering stories in the Superior North region.
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