Opinion: Affordable childcare is part of our social infrastructure, says Red Deer mother

When the budget was released Thursday, Finance Minister Travis Toews stated that the choices made were to support economic growth and jobs for Albertans, and the word infrastructure was mentioned quite a bit recently.

But what good is physical infrastructure, without a social infrastructure that allows Alberta’s parents to go to work?

The incredible Albertans who choose to work in early childhood education and care are disturbingly undervalued in our province — if we want to invest in our economy and infrastructure, we need to invest in this industry.

The people working for organizations such as Red Deer Child Care are providing the scaffolding on which careers like mine are built.

By cutting the benefit contribution grant (introduced to help Alberta’s childcare providers with the cost of employer payroll contributions, including the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance), our government has forced care providers such as Red Deer Child Care to make fraught decisions and increase fees.

Those in power are signalling to both working parents and the childcare workers we rely on that we don’t matter — and neither do our kids.

The loss of the benefit contribution grant comes at the same time as the $25-a-day childcare pilot implemented by the previous government comes to a close.

At a time when Alberta families can least afford it, the government is making daycare more expensive. At a time when other countries and provinces are prioritizing affordable childcare and pre-primary, our government is moving backward.

There is a large body of research supporting quality centre-based daycare, and we know government investment in these areas leads to increased maternal workforce participation rates and better outcomes for students, even into adulthood.

When childcare is unaffordable, families suffer and children miss out on valuable early childhood education opportunities.

If our government values our children and working families as much as it says it does, then it is time to support organizations such as Red Deer Child Care and those who work within it.

These people and organizations are filling a void in our public infrastructure. Parents need affordable childcare, and some organizations (such as Red Deer Child Care) aren’t just taking on children with typical needs, but children with complex needs, like autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays and physical disabilities that require extra care (such as feeding tubes or visual impairments).

It’s incomprehensible to me that Alberta’s society expects people to go to school, get a bachelor’s degree or a college diploma in early childhood education and take on the huge, incredibly important responsibility of caring for and educating children, all while being underpaid and, as our government has demonstrated, undervalued.

This government says it stands for parent choice. If that is true, it needs to allow mothers the choice to work and parents the choice of seeking quality, centre-based childcare.

And you can’t do that without supporting organizations such as Red Deer Child Care.

Heather Marcoux is a Red Deer mother of one. Her child is thriving in a Red Deer Child Care daycare and Program Unit Funding pre-K.

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