Recommendation: The Province of Manitoba should add 17,000 new non-profit child care spaces by 2021 with priority given to low socio-economic neighbourhoods, and immediately provide a full subsidy for families living below the poverty line.
Child care is key to decreasing the poverty rates of Manitoba’s children, families and women. Several demographic trends in Manitoba hasten the need for more investment in child care. Manitoba welcomed 16,000 newcomers last year, many of whom arrived with children. The median age of Aboriginal Manitobans is half of that of non-aboriginal residents, and the second youngest in Canada. Lone parents, student parents, newcomers, families with disabilities and those of Indigenous descent are more likely to face financial hardships. Increasing their access to education and employment could significantly improve their earning potential.
A lack of child care is a tremendous barrier for student parents to overcome, since Manitoba post-secondary institutions have few child care services. At the University of Manitoba, there are only 132 licensed spaces, and the Université de Saint-Boniface has none at all. Students can incur more debt paying for child care than will in paying for their university tuition - however access to subsidized child care could greatly alleviate these costs.
Subsidized childcare is a rare find and the income cut-off line for maximum subsidy in Manitoba is substantially lower than poverty levels. In 2013, one parent with one preschool child could qualify for maximum subsidy if their income was below $15,593. Two parents with one infant and two preschool children could qualify for full subsidy with income below $24,260.
Parents qualifying for a maximum subsidy are charged $2/day per child. Although the absolute number of regulated spaces in Manitoba has increased over the past decade, the absolute number of children receiving a subsidy has fallen. In 2000/02, subsidized children represented nearly half (47.9%) of all children in the regulated system. By 2014, only about one-quarter (26.5%) of children received a subsidy. The official provincial waitlist for subsidized daycare has about 17,000 names.
Financially disadvantaged areas have less licensed child care than more affluent communities. Elmwood and Point Douglas have spaces for approximately 20% or less of the child population, in spite of the high needs of both communities. In contrast, the wealthier communities of River Heights and Saint-James have spaces for 40% of their children. The provincial average is also low, at 23% of child care spaces.
In order to grow the system, there needs to be enough trained early childhood educators recruited and retained in order to secure a quality child care system.