The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a study comparing child care options for parents in the three Prairie provinces. Little Crèche on the Prairies: Evaluating child care policies in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, finds that across the Prairies, there is a wide diversity in child care policies and coverage. In particular, the treatment of for-profit child care centres varies considerably.
The study’s author, Peter Shawn Taylor, notes that Manitoba and Saskatchewan have chosen to discourage for-profit child care centres to create a dominant non-profit sector. He points out that while such a policy may satisfy ideological goals, it appears to result in higher costs for taxpayers, less choice for parents and an increase in the time required to establish new centres. “The impact of this policy on the quality of child care is uncertain. What is certain is that it results in fewer available daycare spaces,” writes Taylor.
Taylor points out that in contrast, “Alberta has permitted equal access to government subsidies by both for-profit and non-profit centres. This has resulted in a more efficient use of taxpayer subsidies and a broader range of child care options for parents.”
In summary, the study found:
• Manitoba provides coverage near the national rate—helped in no small measure by a significant drop in the number of children under the age of five; Manitoba actively discourages for-profit daycare by denying new centres access to provincial grants. This has led to complaints that the child care sector is slow to respond to increased demand.
• Saskatchewan has the lowest level of child care coverage in Canada. This is because
the province has virtually eliminated its for-profit sector via official policies and unofficial practices that deny government child care funding to entrepreneurial centres.
• Alberta has a flourishing daycare sector with strong participation by both for-profit and non-profit centres. It has a long tradition of equal treatment of both ownership models. Alberta also boasts the widest variety of options for parents. It is also the most efficient system (see table 4). For every $1,000 spent, Alberta creates twice as many child care spaces as Manitoba and three times the spaces provided by Saskatchewan.
Copies of the Frontier Centre policy series Little Crèche on the Prairies: Evaluating child care policies in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta can be downloaded free here.
For more information, contact the study author at:
Peter Shawn Taylor
Office: 519-884-7692 (Waterloo, Ontario)
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