Pallister ‘guarantees’ no hikes to daycare fees as NDP raise concerns

Pallister ‘guarantees’ no hikes to daycare fees as NDP raise concerns

The provincial government received advice on the possibility of raising parents’ daycare fees last year, according to a department of families note obtained by the NDP.

But the premier says no rate increase will occur this year.

The note devoted to the issue of “proposed increased parent fees and decreasing numbers of subsidized children,” was obtained by the  Opposition party through a freedom of information request.

It states that parent fees have held steady since July 2013. The Sept. 11, 2018 document also states that there would be plenty of public interest, should a fee hike occur.

“It is anticipated that an increase to parent fees will gain interest from parents and the media,” the note states. “Issues related to (early learning and child care) have been raised frequently during legislative debates.”

While the document is labelled as “information only,” it’s not immediately clear what specific level of rate hike was discussed, since much of the text is blacked out.

NDP leader Wab Kinew said the document raised concerns that rates could rise, hindering affordability for parents.

“The government was actively looking at raising daycare fees for parents in the run up to this year’s budget,” he said.

During Question Period, however, Premier Brian Pallister said he could “guarantee” no such hike will come this year.

“Not only can I guarantee that but I can guarantee Manitobans … will pay lower PST,” said Pallister.

The province’s 2019 budget revealed that the provincial sales tax will fall from 8% to 7% on July 1.

The document also shows that Winnipeg’s median daycare rate for provincially funded facilities was $20.78 per day per preschooler in 2017, which fell behind only Montreal and Quebec City in a survey of many major Canadian cities.

“(That) is a testament to the fact that we support daycare and affordable daycare,” said Pallister.

Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said any future increase to parent fees could have mixed results.

“That would increase the revenue for licensed, not-for-profit programs so they could offset some of their operating expenses,” said Kehl. “(But) what we do know is that nothing happens in isolation … (and) it would make things perhaps less affordable for families.”

Kehl said she hopes that if a fee hike were implemented in the future, the province would also review daycare subsidy levels. She said that would help ensure higher fees doesn’t result in some families no longer being able to afford child care.

jpursaga@postmedia.com

Twitter: @pursagawpgsun

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