A new federal-provincial deal for childcare shows promise for rural and farming families, says KAP.
“There’s a lot of good news all around,” said Graham Schellenberg, communications and government relations co-ordinator with Keystone Agricultural Producers.
“In terms of rural families, there’s really a good impact here from what we see,” he added.
On August 9, the province and federal government inked a deal that would see $1.2 billion in federal funds over the next five years to develop $10-per-day childcare in Manitoba. The move comes as part of a $30-billion, Canada-wide early-learning and childcare plan rolled out in the 2021 federal budget.
Both governments pledged 23,000 new, full-time, regulated childcare spaces by end of fiscal year 2025-26 which included — crucially for farm families — 1,700 spaces for children on evenings and weekends.
“As part of the criteria for funding of childcare development projects, priority is and will continue to be given to underserved communities, and these include rural communities,” said a spokesperson for Rochelle Squires, the provincial minister of families, in an emailed statement.
In its annual general meeting this January, KAP passed a resolution to lobby for better childcare for farming families.
Young, farming parents told KAP and the Co-operator that they struggle to find care that works with their irregular hours or on short notice if they — for instance — need to make a snap trip to the grain elevator.
KAP members who worked on the resolution said that women, in particular, were affected by a lack of childcare options.
Farmers who spoke to the Co-operator were also concerned that kids tagging along with parents put them at risk for accidents. Parents might also be forced to do potentially dangerous, two-person tasks alone because their spouse is watching the children.
The joint federal-provincial announcement was light on details as much of that is yet to be worked out in consultation. Schellenberg said he didn’t know if KAP would be part of formal consultation, but would certainly raise the needs of rural families with the province.
KAP will be particularly concerned that underserved areas like the Interlake and Westman are included in the promised childcare spots.
“Accessibility is the key word here,” said Schellenberg.
It’s not clear if the childcare deal will withstand any pending election which political pundits said could be imminent at the time of writing.
In an April article, the Globe and Mail recalled that the Paul Martin Liberals tried to set up a national childcare program in 2005. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives replaced them, they cancelled bilateral deals with the provinces and set up the Universal Canada Child Benefit in its place.