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This article was published 5/6/2015 (2304 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba wouldn't create a government-funded universal child-care system but would instead open the province up to more private, for-profit daycare.
"We'd like to leave the money with the parents and perhaps provide more opportunities for licensed privates," said Tory MLA and family services critic Ian Wishart, "We'd like to make (child care) easy and accessible and flexible for modern families."
Wishart's comments Thursday came after Premier Greg Selinger announced another 900 new daycare spaces to be funded this year and a raise for early-childhood educators. But Premier Greg Selinger acknowledged wait lists for daycare aren't shrinking.
Roughly 12,000 children are listed on the province's central registry, several hundred more than two years ago. Daycares all over Winnipeg say they have hundreds of children on their internal lists, and the province's auditor general said in a report earlier this week the province's software makes it impossible to know whether wait times are shrinking.
Speaking at Little Saints Learning Centre in St. Vital, which is opening a second location with provincial funding, Selinger said the number of new families moving to Manitoba and a strong economy are making progress slow.
"If the list started going down, that would be a positive thing. But it's probably going to continue with strong demand because we have more people moving here," said Selinger. "It's a long road for sure, but we're on it."
The Selinger government recently pledged to create a universal child-care system and has formed a commission to figure out how.
That pledge mirrors one by federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, and Wishart said it appears the Selinger government is pinning its hopes on a federal NDP victory in this fall's federal election. Wishart said provincial Conservatives are more supportive of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's approach to child care, which has been to give money directly to parents. Next month, the Universal Child Care Benefit is increasing. Parents will get $160 a month for each child under six years old and $60 a month for children ages six through 17.
Wishart said Manitoba is falling behind on needed spaces, and opening the province up to more commercial centres could help.
Manitoba has about 35 private, for-profit centres, and many of those follow the Montessori model. Compared with most other provinces, that's a very modest number. Though critics say for-profit fees are high and care can be substandard, any licensed, for-profit centres in Manitoba would have to follow provincial rules governing staff training, child-to-worker ratios and safety measures.
Wishart said a PC government wouldn't likely roll back public funding for the roughly 27,000 daycare spaces now backstopped by provincial cash. And, said Wishart, a provincial government led by Tory Leader Brian Pallister would also continue to support the construction of child-care centres in schools.
Wishart said a PC government would also look to cut the red tape that often mires new daycares in delays. He said the party is consulting now and expects to have a more developed position in time for next April's provincial election.
As part of a previously announced five-year daycare plan, Selinger announced funding for another 900 child-care spaces in 14 centres this year -- most in and around Winnipeg but some in Morden, Anola and other rural locations.
And early-childhood educators will get a two per cent raise in January, part of a planned series of wage hikes meant to curb the shortage of daycare staff.
Manitoba's child-care system is widely seen as the best in Canada next to Quebec's, especially due to its affordability, the wages paid to early-childhood educators and the number of new spaces created yearly. But parents are still confounded by a shortage of spaces, and quality is uneven.