Excerpted from introduction
The massive disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted for many Canadians the vital roles that governments can play in shielding them from economic and social hardships. They further revealed for governments the importance of strong economic and social policies not only as stabilizing influences during a time of crisis, but also as the foundations for recovery as families, communities and businesses look to the future and potentially new ways of working together.
Not surprisingly, early learning and child care has taken central stage in much of the discussion of Canada’s economic and social recovery. Governments at all levels have recognized what child care researchers and advocates have long known and argued: that high quality early learning and child care remains an essential foundation for modern societies and economies given its support for young children’s development and well-being, the full participation of women in the labour market and the building of equity and social inclusion.
The federal Budget 2021 - A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth and Resilience placed early learning and child care at its heart. It outlined a bold and innovative vision for the federal government to work collaboratively with provincial and territorial governments to transform the current patchwork of services into a publicly funded and managed system that will meet children’s and families’ needs in ways not previously seen in much of Canada. Budget 2021’s historic new spending of $27.2 billion over the next five years, which are added to the previous federal commitments under the 2017 Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework, represents the most significant investments in child care in Canadian history.
Seven provinces and one territory reached system building agreements to work with the federal government prior to the fall federal election. British Columbia was the first province to do so in July 2021, with the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan signing agreements in August. The Government of Alberta signed its historic system building agreement on November 15, 2021 at the YMCA Shirley Stollery Child Care in Edmonton.
These are exciting times for Alberta’s early learning and child care sector. Over the next five years, the federal government will transfer $3.8 billion to Alberta to support early learning and child care system building. These investments have the potential to transform early learning and child care in the province and make high-quality, affordable regulated child care available to all young children and their families. And while building an early learning and child care system will involve a significant amount of work, for many partners, over an extended period of time, the benefits will extend for generations.