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This article was published 20/8/2019 (515 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba New Democrats would lift a government funding freeze on not-for-profit child-care programs and add 600 new public daycare spaces each year, if they formed government.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew made the pledge Tuesday while also promising to eliminate the huge wait list for child-care spots within a decade.

As of June 2018, there were 16,000 children on provincial wait lists for child care.

"We know that we have to present a fully costed and responsible plan that both meets the needs of parents here in Manitoba, but also reduces the waiting lists," Kinew said in a campaign announcement at the Dante Day Nursery on Cockburn Street. "We believe that adding 600 spots per year is a sustainable number that we can continue to build on."

Kinew said the increase in funding for child-care centres would be tied to economic growth, which in 2019 is forecast at 1.7 per cent. That would cost the government an additional $3 million.

He said increases in operating funding are necessary for child-care centres to retain staff and pay for rising overhead costs.

The NDP pledges to build child-care spaces in all new public buildings — not just schools — where appropriate.

The new child-care centres are projected to cost $8,500 per space to build, while operating costs are projected to amount to $6,000 per space.

Kinew pledged not to raise parent fees. Over 10 years, he said the NDP would like to reduce fees to $15 per day, he said.

The NDP would also move responsibility for child care from the Families Department to the Department of Education, he said, to better design programs geared to childhood development.

Kinew couldn't say what kind of dent his plan would make in the massive child-care wait list, but he called the NDP proposal a "responsible, costed approach."

"We think we've got to be responsible and judicious with public resources as we work towards that goal of eliminating wait lists," he said.

Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said she likes that the NDP plan supports the not-for-profit sector, which is the predominant model for child care in the province.

"Parent fees tend to be lower and quality higher in not-for-profit programs," she said.

However, Kehl noted that the 600 new spaces per year the NDP is advocating "is not a lot of spaces," and probably needs to be higher to address the large wait list.

Asked for reaction, Rochelle Squires, speaking on behalf of the Progressive Conservatives, did not directly address the NDP announcement except to say that the Tories would add new spaces "in a flexible manner," not based on "ideology." The PCs also seek to encourage the creation of private daycare centres.

As for lifting the funding freeze on licensed not-for-profit centres, Squires said the PCs would look to the results of a child-care review for guidance.

Manitoba Liberals issued a statement saying they questioned how adding 600 spaces a year would eliminate a 16,000-child wait list.

"Our promise was to eliminate child-care wait lists and pay people (child care staff) properly," the statement said, in part.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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