Whitehorse Daily Star

Childcare recruitment in crisis mode: advocate

Yukon childcare is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis,

By Sidney Cohen on July 10, 2017

Yukon childcare is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, say advocates who hope new federal funding will be used to entice workers to remain in the field.

“We get a very low wage, we’re not paid a lot, and that has a part to do with retaining people,” Lynn Rice-Rideout, the newly-elected president of the Yukon Childcare Association, said in a recent interview.

Last month, the federal government signed a national childcare and early learning agreement with the provinces and territories.

The Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework aims to expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare across Canada, and is directed at assisting families most in need.

These include lower-income, indigenous, and single-parent families; families with children with disabilities, parents who work nights and weekends, and parents in “under-served communities.”

The framework will see $7.5 billion put toward childcare across the country over 11 years, starting with $500 million this year.

Each province and territory will get $2 million a year, plus an additional amount based on population. The Yukon will get a total of $2.4 million.

Katie Swales is the co-ordinator of Partners For Children at Yukon College’s School of Health, Education and Human Services, and is a member of the Network for Healthy Early Human Development Yukon. She was pleased to see Ottawa shine a spotlight on childcare.

“Children are generally ignored,” she said.

“They’ve never been a priority, even though they should be right at the top of the list.”

Swales and Rice-Rideout agree it’s critical that the childcare community determines how the new federal money is spent.

“I want to stress how important it is that the community drives the local framework and it’s not driven by bureuacrats. I think that’s super-duper important,” said Swales.

Unlike cities in the south, Whitehorse is not wanting for childcare spaces (availability is more scarce the communities).

At last count, the Department of Health and Social Services found that nearly a quarter of the Yukon’s 1,500 childcare spaces were vacant.

But it’s offering high-quality, sustainable childcare that’s a struggle, said Swales.

“It’s not a viable business if you’re going to operate a quality program,” even when it’s non-profit, she said.

“You have to cut corners in order to keep the doors open.”

By “corners,” Swales means staff wages.

“People don’t earn what they should, and it’s up to the program to decide what they’re going to pay,” she said.

Wage scales are based on experience and training and vary from daycare to daycare, said Rice-Rideout, who works at Yukon College’s Nakwaye Ku Daycare.

At the college, entry-level workers make between $11.90 and $13.32 an hour.

Childcare workers with a diploma – the highest certification available inside the territory – earn $16.07 an hour.

Childcare centres often lose staff to education assistant positions in schools, said Rice-Rideout.

The Yukon government offers grants to licensed daycares and family day homes so facilities need not pass on operating costs to families.

It’s up to the employer, however, to decide where grant money goes, and it isn’t necessarily passed on to employees, said Rice-Rideout.

Placing an infant (aged zero to 18 months) in a licensed childcare facility in the Yukon is also a challenge, as there are fewer spots for babies, said Swales.

The federal government dubbed its childcare deal “historic,” but it isn’t the first time Ottawa has proposed a major childcare spending initiative.

In 2005, Paul Martin’s Liberal government penned a deal with the 10 provinces that would see $5 billion funneled into childcare across the country over five years.

That agreement, which was dismantled in short order by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, was markedly more ambitious than the framework announced on June 12.

The Yukon NDP believes the new childcare deal doesn’t go far enough.

“We can certainly agree with the five childcare principles of affordability, quality, flexibility, accessibility and inclusivity,” NDP MLA Kate White told the legislature last month.

“Unfortunately, what is missing in all of this is universality.”

Quebec, which has had low-cost, universal childcare for two decades, opted out of the federal framework because it wants to retain control of its system.

Ontario is moving toward universal childcare too.

On June 6, the Ontario Liberals announced they would spend $1.6 billion over the next five years to help make childcare more accessible and affordable to all families.

The money will be put toward 45,000 new licensed childcare spaces, mainly in schools, and will expand capacity for children ages zero to four by 100,000.

Patti McLeod, the Health and Social Services critic for the Yukon Party, highlighted the uncertainty inherent in the federal Liberals’ long-term funding promise.

“Obviously, this may present some challenges, given that a federal election is two years away,” she said.

Frost said the new federal funding could go toward improving access to childcare in the communities, such as in Ross River, which does not currently have a daycare centre.

“Every Yukon child requires the best benefits possible,” Frost told the legislative assembly in June.

“Some things have not been working so great, but we aim to address some of those challenges.”

Comments (4)

Up 21 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Jul 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

In these modern times with all the additional taxes government is stealing from the working public and the rising cost of living, most families need two incomes to get by, so that means daycare is required. If daycares charged what they should to appropriately pay their staff, all the mothers out there working would not bring home any extra money to keep the financial wolves away from the door. Who blinks first? I suggest that government could do wonderful things for everybody - not just families with children - by lowering our tax burden to realistic levels, get rid of some program fees and stop blowing money on dumb projects. I see the banks raised interest rates because of more part time jobs being created across the nation, and the coming carbon tax should eat up any uncommitted money from family budgets soon too. Face it, our biggest problem is with governments stealing our money.

Up 17 Down 10

Just Sayin' on Jul 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

@ Nile

I agree with your entire statement.

The other issue I would like to bring forth, is why are further tax dollars going to support children? I made a conscious choice not to have children, but there are member's of society whom have children as if they are a new trend. Why should the tax payer further foot the cost of this. I already pay taxes for school (agree, good to educate future workers), buses (transport kids), child tax care benefit (okay, some parents need the extra help), tax deductions, but now I have to help contribute to daycare's/ dayhome's so they have the possibility to increase their wages for their employees. UGH!

In the past people lived on less, one parent stayed home to educate and take care of their child; for the lack of a better line; their child, their requirement to take care of it. If you cannot afford to have a child and/or the lifestyle you want with a child, then make the choice of not having a child. Stop creating more people, when the Earth is already overpopulated.

Up 14 Down 2

Lost in the Yukon on Jul 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm

The Minister of Health and her DM puppet master will dither on this as is the way of this government ... maybe the should commission a study and then find someone to blame when the real issue is that the acting DM has introduced chaos into the department ever since she arrived.

Up 26 Down 7

Nile on Jul 10, 2017 at 3:44 pm

As it stands now any money given to daycares will go directly into the pockets of the daycare owners not to the increase in wages. This means that the Liberals plan is basically a waste of money as it will improve nothing. The conservatives dismantled the previous Liberal plan for exactly that reason. It makes more sense to give tax breaks or money to families to do with as they see fit. This makes far more sense, especially for the many families that have one parent stay home to take care of their kids instead of losing their paycheque to pay someone else to do it.

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