In an article titled “NDP child care plan shows vast gap with UCP policy” published on March 26, 2019, Don Braid wrote about the NDP’s plan to expand the $25 a day child care pilot program that would create additional child care spaces and bring affordable, quality child care to Albertan families. Mr. Braid noted the large investment required to make this a reality and asks whether “voters will see this as a major social benefit and economic driver or just another expense the province can’t afford.”
There is only one answer to this question: we can’t afford to NOT invest in children.
Children’s first five years have a significant impact on the rest of their lives. Children’s earliest experiences impact their likelihood of experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental health challenges. Moreover, greater skills development in early childhood makes it more likely that children will succeed in education; raising employment prospects and reducing duration of unemployment.
This makes the fact that, according to provincial data, more than one in four children in Alberta are struggling with their development by kindergarten (a higher proportion than the Canadian norm), even more distressing.
Many Albertan children depend on having access to quality, affordable childcare programs. Unfortunately, that is out of reach for many families. The average median childcare fees across all age groups are $1,100/month in Calgary and $922/month in Edmonton. The pilot program that the NDP seeks to support tackles cost as well as quality concerns, including improving standards and professional development for childcare workers.
On top of caring about the well-being of kids, investing in the early years is profitable. Investing in early childhood saves us money by having a positive impact crime rates and lifetime income. It also has a positive impact on high school graduation rates: estimates calculate that a 1% increase of the high school completion rate in Canada would save $7.7 billion in social assistance, costs of crime, lost earning or more. There is also a clear link between access to affordable child care and women’s participation in the workforce. When we talk about the importance of job creation child care professionals and mothers cannot be left out of the conversation.
We urge voters to “vote for kids” in the coming election, we can’t afford anything else.