WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has cancelled the Benefit Contribution Grant (BCG) for early childhood educators effective July 1, 2020; and
WHEREAS the cost of living in northern, remote communities in Alberta continues to be higher than other areas of the province; and
WHEREAS northern, remote communities will be disproportionately negatively impacted by the cancellation of the BCG;
WHEREAS incentives such as the BCG are critical to delivering effective, accessible, and affordable childcare to children and their families; and
WHEREAS early childhood educators and their employers are at risk of exiting the profession as a result of the cancellation of the BCG; and
WHEREAS the availability of quality early childhood educators in all communities allow for a stable workforce across all industry sectors; and
WHEREAS the cancellation of the BCG for early childhood educators has compounded the crisis being experienced in the childcare profession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate that the Government of Alberta reinstate the Benefit Contribution Grant for early childhood educators, retroactive to July 1, 2020.
Council for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has received numerous requests and statements from the local early childhood educators in the community, expressing concern with the Government of Alberta’s decision to cancel the Benefit Contribution Grant for early childhood educators in Alberta effective July 1, 2020.
Correspondence received from Rebecca Schulz, Minister for Children’s Services, Government of Alberta, states “the Benefit Contribution Grant for childcare workers was implemented in 2007 in response to a bustling economy and extremely high labour demands. That has changed.” It is agreed that the days of the “bustling economy” have passed, however, there remains a high demand for qualified early childhood educators, especially in rural, remote communities. Moreover, cost of living in many northern communities is high, and the Benefit Contribution Grant provided childcare service providers a financial incentive to attract and retain qualified professionals.
Accessible and affordable childcare is an essential building block for a thriving workforce and labour market. The loss of the Benefit Contribution Grant for early childhood educators will likely result in workers leaving the profession which will negatively impact the number of childcare spaces available in our communities. The resulting reduction in number of childcare spaces impacts the ability for people to enter the labour market including sectors such as small businesses, education, healthcare, and oil and gas.
In a survey conducted by the Association of Childcare Educators of Alberta, it was found that as the pandemic continues, 70% of all childcare centres could face permanent closure in the next one to three months if they are not given help with their operation costs. Early childhood educators in northern communities are also concerned that once centres have the ability to open their doors again, there may be an even greater shortage of early childhood educators, due to the loss of their Benefit Contribution Grant. This will result in a labour market shortage, as families will not be able to secure affordable childcare, recreating the “extremely high labour demands” that are supposed to have ended.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Children’s Services
Alberta’s government recognizes that safe and reliable child care options are integral to our economic recovery, and we are committed to helping the child care sector navigate these unprecedented challenges. Over the past seven months, a total of $99 million in financial relief funding has been provided to licensed and approved child care programs to create stability in the sector. Child care programs located in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have accessed over $1.5M of this relief funding. Additionally, we have maintained wage top-up and professional development grants to programs to support the recruitment and retention of qualified child care professionals.
After reading the full resolution you provided, it appears to call for reinstating the Northern Living Allowance (NLA) rather than the Benefit Contribution Grant (BCG). The NLA was intended as a temporary measure to help offset challenges in Fort McMurray related to a bustling national economy in 2007, which created a highly competitive staff recruitment and retention climate. With the current economic challenges across our province, Alberta’s government must ensure all communities have equal access to provincial funding and initiatives, I understand the impact of the NLA decision on the child care sector in the Wood Buffalo region; however, we cannot afford to continue paying this benefit to only one community,
The decisions to conclude the grant was not made lightly and Alberta’s government will continue to offer some of the highest wage top-ups in the country to all early childhood educators in licensed childcare facilities no matter where they live in Alberta.
The Government of Alberta response states that the program that this resolution appears to reference is the Northern Living Allowance (NLA) rather than the Benefit Contribution Grant (BCG). Both the NLA and BCG are important tools for ensuring stability for early childhood educators in northern Alberta, and, in the case of the BCG, throughout them province. The Government of Alberta response highlights their recent relief funding in response to COVID-19. While this funding is appreciated, the response indicates that funding will not be restored for the NLA. Additionally, Budget 2023 included a key objective for Alberta Children’s Services to “enhance quality licensed child care through workforce investments that strengthen the recruitment and retention of skilled early childhood educators and support their capacity to deliver quality child care.” Unfortunately no change to the BCG or NLA accompanies this objective. As a result, this resolution is assigned the status of Intent Not Met.