Families Minister Heather Stefanson says that as of right now, Manitoba is in an unusual surplus of childcare spots.

Today the Government of Manitoba announced that they will be investing a total of $22 million in childcare. Parts of the funding will be going into a trust, while other funds for startup costs.

"It is providing incentives for people to provide the child care that is needed for Manitobans, when and where they need it."

The minister says that as of today, there are more childcare spots across Manitoba than children in need of care.

Also in attendance of the announcement were the CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the CEO of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce to speak about why they say child care is important for businesses. 

"We are not experts in childcare, that is not the role of the chamber of commerce but we are pleased to be a part of this because what we can bring to the table is providing the advice that some of the businesses as we look at as helping to start-up and looking forward in the province," Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of Manitoba Chambers of Commerce says.

chuck davidsonChuck Davidson speaks to the public about the chamber's role in the business of child care.

Davidson says that he is seeing the impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses and is hearing from people that childcare is an integral part of their ability to work.

As part of the $22 million,  $8.5 million will be invested in new programs to create child care services for what the province is calling under-served families. The province says that is could include parents working non-standard hours.

"Not everyone needs an eight to four, or a nine to five sort of childcare space. Some people are taking on split shifts, they are taking on different types of things, especially different types of jobs during COVID," Stefanson says.

The minister says the province wants to ensure those parents also have child care but adds they will need to assess the demand from parents.

Other investments under the eight-million-dollar fund include up to:

  • $4 million for workplaces to offer on-site child care services
  • $1.5 million in grants to enhance their home child care spaces
  • $2 million for licensed child care providers to establish satellite locations
  • $750,000 for community organizations to develop more diverse child care options that could include different cultures, languages and accessibility needs
  • $250,000 for child care marketing plans

Other funds come from previously-planned initiatives, such as a $9.5 million Child Care Sustainability Trust and $4.7 million for new funding to expand the Child Care Centre Development Tax Credit.

The province says that the following measures are being taken at child care facilities: 

  • Physical distancing will be practised to the fullest extent possible. 
  • Children will participate in activities that help them learn about measuring and maintaining an appropriate distance from each other. 
  • Children will be assigned to a group (cohort) that they and the staff will stay with throughout the day, whenever possible. 
  • Good hand hygiene practices will be taught in a playful way. Cough and sneeze etiquette will be modelled, taught and reinforced. 
  • Parents will be asked to monitor their children every day and keep them home if they show symptoms or are sick. 
  • All child care staff will be told to stay home if they are sick. 
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting will occur throughout the day and at the end of each day. 
  • Child care providers will follow the direction of public health on who should self-isolate, who needs to be tested when they can return to a facility and if the facility can remain open. 
  • Public health will also determine whether a notice to parents and caregivers should be sent. 

Acknowledging that parents may be hesitant about sending their children to daycare, Stefanson says the province is working with centres to assure safe environments.

"We will continue to work with public health on that front to ensure the safety of children in childcare facilities," Stefanson says.

A total of over 25,000 personal protective equipment items was distributed to some child care providers across the province. Stefanson expects more to be distributed in the future.

Rupinder Singh, a home child care operator in Winnipeg, says that she has been in the field for 20 years, says the government's support has helped her continue throughout the pandemic.

"Childcare grant programs are very crucial for quality childcare in not oly Manitoba but all over Canada. Without grants and sports programs our future is unstable," Singh says.

She adds that she has received support from the Chamber of Comerce and hopes to see more improvemetns being made towards childcarein Manitoba.