The Hon. Karina Gould: Supporting Families and Growing the Economy
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28 February, 2022 The Hon. Karina Gould: Supporting Families and Growing the Economy
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February 2022
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February 28, 2022

The Empire Club of Canada Presents

Supporting Families and Growing the Economy: The Importance of a Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care System

Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College

Distinguished Guest Speakers
The Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Government of Canada
Victoria Mancinelli, Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, LiUNA

Introduction
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon fellow directors, past presidents, members, and guests. Welcome to the 118th season of the Empire Club of Canada. My name is Kelly Jackson. I am the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada, and Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College. I'm your host for today's event with the Honourable Karina Gould, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

I'd like to begin this afternoon with an acknowledgement. I am hosting this event within the Traditional and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. Delivering a land acknowledgement, for me, it's always an important opportunity to reflect on our human connection, and responsibility to care for the land; and to recognize that to do so, we must always respect each other, and acknowledge our histories. We encourage everyone tuning in today to learn more about the Traditional Territory on which you work and live.

The Empire Club of Canada is a non-profit organization. So, I now want to take a moment to recognize our sponsors, who generously support the Club, and make these events possible, and complimentary, for our supporters to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsor, LiUNA, Thank you also, to our season sponsors, the Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, Waste Connections of Canada, and Bruce Power.

Before we get started, just a few quick housekeeping notes. I want to remind everybody who's participating today, that this is an interactive event. For those attending live, I encourage you to engage. Take advantage of the question box you will see below your on-screen video player. We have reserved time for a Q&A period with the Minister after her remarks. We also invite you to share your thoughts on social media, using the hashtags displayed on-screen throughout the event. If you require technical assistance, please start a conversation with our team, using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. To those watching on-demand later, and to those tuning in on the podcast, welcome.

It's now my pleasure to call this virtual meeting to order. I'm honoured to welcome today's guest at the Empire Club of Canada's virtual podium. The Honourable Karina Gould is Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. She was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015, and has previously served as Minister of International Development, and Minister of Democratic Institutions. A graduate of McGill University and University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about helping Canadian families, public service, and international development. If you'd like to learn more about Minister Gould, you can find her full bio on the page below the video player on your screen. A very warm welcome to Minister Gould.

The Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Government of Canada
Great. Well, thank you so much, Kelly for that warm introduction, and that welcome to the Empire Club and all of those listening today. It is such a pleasure to be able to speak with you about the progress we have made creating a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system. I am speaking to you today from my home in Burlington, which is located on the Traditional Territory of a diverse group of First Nations Peoples, including the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Attiwonderonk, and Mississaugas of the Credit. Thank you to the Empire Club for hosting this virtually here today. The Empire Club's role in providing a forum for discussion of issues of interest to Canadians is vital. It has, without a doubt, in a difficult year. The pandemic has changed our lives, and our plans, in dramatic ways. I myself am at the tail end of isolation, after a positive COVID-19 test result. My husband and four-year-old are at home as well, and they're not too happy about it. Oliver would much rather be at daycare with his friends, his amazing educators, and all the great resources the daycare has—and if I'm honest, his parents would also like that too. I know many of you have felt the struggle during lockdowns, during periods of homeschooling, and asynchronous learning. As so many of us already knew, working and parenting at the same time is pretty hard. It is a bit tragic that it took a pandemic for our society to realize what parents and advocates have known for over 50 years: access to quality learning, and early childcare is this universal issue. It has significant impacts across all sectors, regions and income brackets. The realities of the pandemic have made clear that high quality, inclusive, flexible and affordable childcare is not a frill. It is a necessity for families across the country, and it is an economic imperative.

So, last April, in the Federal Budget, we announced a commitment of $30 billion, to build an affordable, high-quality early learning and childcare system across Canada. Thirty billion dollars—in fact, it was a transformational commitment. And with agreements in place with 12 provinces and territories, it means we're almost there, to deliver affordable, quality, inclusive, and accessible care to children from coast-to-coast-to-coast. We have seen such amazing co-operation between federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and our Indigenous partners. We have now signed agreements with nine provinces and three territories to reduce fees, grow the workforce, build high-quality spaces, and ensure educators are better supportive. We found common ground on the thing we all care most deeply about, giving our children, wherever they live, the best possible start in life. And while there are similarities in the agreements, there was no one-size-fits-all solution. We committed from the outset that the Federal Government would be a collaborative partner. Every agreement is distinct, while building on the common goals we all share. We agreed that we needed to create more spaces, to ensure access, and address waitlists, and lower fees quickly, by at least 50% by the end of 2022, and to $10 a day on average by 2025-2026. Many agreements will get to $10 a day well before that. We also agreed that childcare deserts, where no childcare options exist, need to be addressed. We agreed that the educators who care for our children need better pay, enhanced benefits, and access to professional supports. Without educators, there is no system. Six months in, we have been able to reach these 12 agreements, from coast-to-coast-to-coast, because we knew there would be tremendous benefits for our children, for families, for women, and for the economy.

So, let's start with families. Since July, because of our childcare agreements, parents in five provinces have seen the fees they pay for daycare reduced significantly. In Saskatchewan, parents saw their fees reduced by 50% in November, saving up to $395 every month; Alberta announced a 50% fee reduction in January; and in Nova Scotia, we announced a 25% reduction in childcare fees, retroactive to January 2022, saving parents on average $200 per month per child. And this is just the start. The relief and support the savings offer parents of young children cannot be overstated. For many families, daycare fees have been the size have a mortgage payment, placing massive strain on the family budget. This is an addition to the actual mortgage, which as we know, is also a growing expense in much of Canada.

I have heard from families across the country; parents of twin babies in Manitoba, who are unable to find spaces to keep both children together; a Nova Scotia mother who struggled to find care for her son near her home, despite being on every single waitlist. The stories of parents across Canada, and the stress and financial worry they face because of inadequate, unaffordable, and often unavailable care for their kids, are legion. Imagine if you were a single parent making $52,000, and you suddenly got to take home an extra $600 a month. Just sit with that for a moment. That's the new minivan you couldn't afford, that's a sports camp, music lessons, a new winter coat for both the kids, groceries, a bike, a dinner out for a special birthday; a babysitter for a long-overdue date night, monthly savings. For Michelle in Alberta, it meant accepting the full-time position, after years of staying part-time, because of daycare costs. For her family, that meant a more financially secure present, and future. We are also working with provinces and territories to build new, high-quality childcare spaces for all families, including families with children with disabilities, or children needing enhanced, or individual supports. Every parent, no matter where they live, will have access to affordable, inclusive, early learning and childcare. That is why it's good for families.

For women, this is a no brainer. If childcare is too expensive, or unavailable, more often than not, it is women who stay home. We have seen thousands of women leave the workforce to raise a family, or take on a reduced workload to provide childcare. In some families, that's a choice that a mom, or another parent, can take. But for many women, there was no choice. It was out of their hands, because there were not enough spaces, or the fees were simply too high. I just spoke with a mom in Sudbury, who wanted to go back to work after her 12-month maternity leave, but because she was unable to find an infant spot anywhere in Sudbury, she had to extend her leave to 18 months. That was not her choice. The longer working mothers are out of the workforce, the harder it is to get back in, and advance in a career with all the social and economic benefits that success in the workplace offer women and families. However, when childcare becomes more affordable, and spaces become more accessible, women have more opportunities to pursue their career, to make more money, to improve circumstances for themselves, their children, their family, and to grow and support the economy. We need only to look at Québec, where the Provincial Government has been investing in high-quality accessible childcare for over two decades. As of 2020, Québec mothers with young children had a labour market participation rate of nearly 82%. In fact, Québec women with children under the age of three have some of the highest employment rates in the world. If women in the rest of Canada participated at the same level as Québec, it would add approximately 240,000 workers to the labour force in today's terms. Two hundred and forty thousand. It is not simply a matter of being able to go out to work, but the impact reliable childcare has on careers, and long-term earning capability. This is feminist economic policy, which is smart economic policy. As women enter the workforce, and advance their careers, they have more opportunities to support and improve the economy. As parents have access to affordable childcare, they feel less uncertain about the future, and consider purchasing that new car, or that new home. Canadian women were already measurably absent from the workforce prior to the pandemic. Scotiabank's global economics fiscal poll suggested that, in September 2020, 70% of mothers reported working less than half of their normal hours, relative to September 2019. Parents struggled throughout the pandemic to maintain their connection to the labour market, and juggle childcare responsibilities. That's why our childcare plan is so important. Access to childcare promotes greater gender equality in the labour market, which also results in an economy that is more productive, more competitive, and more dynamic. The OECD report Is the Last Mile the Longest, shows that improvement in gender equality, and family-friendly policies, has boosted growth in GDP per capita by between 10% and 20%. In Sweden, female employment rates increased by almost 30%. TD Economics has pointed to a range of studies that show that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the broader economy receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that closing the participation gap between Canadian men and women in the workforce could lift Canada's GDP levels by 4% in the medium term. That's $92 billion.

These are just the near-term economic benefits. I'm also really interested to see how this impacts long-term economic security, particularly for senior women in Canada. As more women stay in the workforce, what will this mean for their retirement security? As more children have access to high-quality early learning and childcare, more women have access to the workforce, and the ability to advance their careers. Not only does it provide more opportunities for women to be more competitive, it also provides more opportunities for those considering entering the early learning and childcare workforce. We rely on our childcare providers to create a safe and loving environment for our children, and I am grateful for their compassion, patience and care every single day. It is estimated that 34,000-43,000 early learning and childcare workers will be needed, once our Canada-wide system is in place. That is why a significant pillar of our system is supporting the workforce, and providing them with the tools, services and competitive wages to succeed.

And, as you know, there is still one large piece missing to complete this Canada-wide system; and that, of course, is Ontario. I am optimistic, because I know that our Ontario colleagues share that common ground with every other province and territory. They want the best possible start in life for all the province’s children. We have set aside Ontario's fair share, $10.2 billion dollars, and we are ready to sign an agreement that meets our objectives on fee reductions, space creation, workforce support, quality, and inclusion. Parents in other provinces are already benefiting from our plan, and saving hundreds of dollars a month. And those provinces, and their economies, will soon start to see the benefits that childcare provides. There is no reason for parents in Ontario, or the Ontario economy, to be left behind. This is a plan to drive economic growth; to enable parents, especially mothers, to enter, maintain, and re-enter the job market, and to offer each child in Canada the best possible start in life. Thanks to the spirit of co-operation we have experienced from our provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, we are well on the way to a transformational, Canada-wide system that supports children and parents now, and for generations to come. Thank you, and I'm really looking forward to the conversation.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you so much, Minister Gould. Wow. I guess been just about 10 months, and thinking about all that's been accomplished in that time is pretty incredible. I think, in terms of questions, I've got a lot, so we're going to just jump right in, if that's okay.

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, great.

Kelly Jackson
I think the first one is just for those who aren't as familiar with some of the mechanisms in place, and some of the ways in which the collaborations happen with the provinces, and the agreements. Just walk us through how the funding actually trickles down to parents. Is it in the form of subsidies that people are receiving in the provinces, for example, where you've already talked about parents who are seeing those fee reductions happen, are they going to directly to the operators who then reduce the fees? Maybe the answer is, it's different in different places, I don't know. So, can you just give us a little bit more insight into that, sort of how does it actually work?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, absolutely. So, the idea is that the upfront costs will be reduced, right? So, it's not supposed to be a subsidy in that sense, that you pay upfront and then you get a rebate. The idea is that, by the end of the five years, you are paying, on average $10 a day upfront. So, for example, in Alberta, what has happened is the Alberta government has transferred funds through the operating costs to the providers. So that the parent, you know, their bill is 50% less than it was the month before, starting in January. In Nova Scotia, because they're implementing the fees as of April, but retroactive to January, they've actually given a couple of different options for parents, so they can kind of use it as a credit for future payments, or they can get it like a lump sum payment for the previous three months. So, the idea is that, at the end, when the system is up and running, the parent, and the family, or the caregiver, just pays the average of $10 a day at the outset. But in the interim, different provinces are using different mechanisms to make that happen.

Kelly Jackson
So, it’s pretty incredible to hear about some of the provinces where there have been significant fee reductions already. Do you have a sense of when that next kind of tranche of provinces, might also people be able to see them come to play?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, well, they're rolling out quickly, there'll be a coup—I can't give you the, I can't, you know, break the news before it happens, but there'll be a couple more announcements this month, which I'm excited about—I think, actually, one later this week, so that'll be great. And, you know, every province and territory with whom we've signed an agreement is really eager to make this happen, so it's great that we've done it in five, so far. And, you know, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, it's really cool to hear from people what a difference it's making in their lives, when they get that fee reduction.

Kelly Jackson
Absolutely. When you spoke and you gave the examples of when you start to think about what $600 a month might mean for somebody, a family—what does it mean for a parent, what does it mean for a family—it really does take it down to that individual level, and you can see the power of that investment, and what that could start to mean for people. But you also talked a lot about, touched on, the “she-cession,” and the idea of how the pandemic has hit mothers particularly hard, in terms of labour market participation. And so, I'm just wondering, when you talk about this idea around 240,000 women, who possibly could be re-entering the workforce, or entering the workforce, you know, how do you see that playing out as you go out and talk to people across the across the country? Because I work in post-secondary and all I hear about all the time right now is a huge war for talent.

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, well, I mean, I think we all know in Canada that there's a huge gap in our labour force right now. We are experiencing a major shortage, and we have this talent pool right here at home that could be entering the labour force, if the conditions were right. And I talked about a little bit Québec’s experience, but what is so striking about Québec, is that in 1998, when they introduced affordable daycare across the province, they went from having the lowest female workforce participation in the country, to having the highest. And so, you know, that when the conditions are right, and the evidence shows it, that women will go back to work. And as I talked about in my remarks, you know, there's often, I think, this false argument about choice, because yes, for some people, it is a choice, but for many people, it isn't. Because they're saying, “well, I could put my entire paycheck towards paying for daycare, or I could stay home with the kid, because economically, it actually doesn't make a difference for me.” Or for some people, they say, “I can't even afford to put my child in daycare, and so therefore, I have to stay home,” or, “I don't have a spot that's available, because there's just not enough spots available.” And you know, as a mom myself, I remember dropping my child off at daycare that first day. It's scary, right? And it's amazing, because we have incredible ECE's who take care of our children, but it's still hard as a parent to do it. And of course, I'm so grateful for everything that they do, but, you know, there are significant barriers right now, particularly for parents, but particularly for mothers when it comes to access and daycare, and what that means for their family’s bottom line. And so, here is an incredible opportunity to tap into this workforce that is available, that's talented, that's probably trained already, and who can step in when the conditions are right. And so, I think there's a really exciting opportunity and story here in terms of labour force participation for women, but also for Canada's economy, and what it means for women as they progress in their career—and maybe I'm rambling a bit too much, but one final point here—because we often talk about the thinner echelons of leadership for women. Well, when you're asking women to take big chunks of time out of their career, it then gets harder to progress into your career. And so, if you take away some of those barriers as well, we're going to see more women in leadership positions, because they're going to be staying in those careers longer as well. So, I think there's a huge win here. And I'm really excited about it.

Kelly Jackson
Yeah, absolutely. And as somebody who was fortunate enough to be able to find childcare, I have a six-year-old daughter, and when I think back, and knowing that I was able to find childcare at the time, it was a great place, so shout out to Seneca College Early Childhood Lab School for giving her a great start. But you know, I wouldn't be in the role that I'm in today, if I hadn't had that opportunity—if I just look back on how my own career progressed—so I think, I'm concerned, I have that firsthand experience it, it’s not just anecdotal, it's true that we see this time and time again. And to your point, the stats bear it out around being able to participate, if that's what you want to do, and being able to move forward in ways, and have opportunities open up for you. You did say something in your remarks that I thought was interesting. It was an expression, I wrote it down, “childcare desert.” I haven’t come across that term before, and I just wondered if you could unpack that one a little bit and talk a little bit about that. Because obviously, Canada is a huge country; a lot of diversity in rural, urban, all sorts of community supports or not. And just wondering what you've seen in your role. Where are those childcare deserts? And how are the provinces trying to address them with you?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, basically, as the as the phrase connotes, it's the space where there is no childcare available. And this could be in an urban centre, it could be, particularly in remote communities, we see it. When I was having conversations with counterparts in Nunavut, and during the announcement in Nunavut, there are some very remote communities where there is no licenced childcare available, and that's very difficult for a community. And so, how are we working with provinces and territories, to ensure that there are childcare spaces available right across the country? And so, this has been another issue that folks have raised in the sense of, well, you know, childcare is a is an urban issue, it's not a rural issue. Well, I know that's not true, because I've spoken with rural families who either use childcare, or would like to have childcare available for them. And it's making sure really, that each province and territory is ensuring that there are childcare spaces being created right across their jurisdiction and looking at the unique needs that they have as well. There are incredible providers right across the country that provide care that's tailored to the needs of their community. But part of what we're doing is providing those start-up costs in areas where there is no childcare available. And so, making sure that provinces and territories have the resources that they need, and are responding to the needs of the community. So, in the North, for example, one of the big challenges is infrastructure. There are simply places that don't have space to create a childcare setting. And so, what are we doing to work with them to make sure that, as we're thinking about community infrastructure, that we're thinking about childcare in that as well. So, those are some examples that we're doing in the North. We also have a separate program called Indigenous Early Learning and Childcare, where we have three distinctions-based agreements with the Inuit, the Métis, and First Nations, about providing tailored childcare needs, that is led by Indigenous communities, and that is responsive to their needs, is distinctions-based, and is grounded in Indigenous culture and language. So, it really is, as you said, it's varied, it's diverse. Canada is vast; has many different communities with many different needs. And the objective of this Canada-wide early learning and childcare system, is to create a system that meets the needs of children and families right across the country.

Kelly Jackson
So, just picking up that about the needs, I know you said your remarks, specifically, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. I think it is fair to say that some critics have said, you're pushing for licenced childcare here, there's a huge amount of childcare delivery that's happening across the country that doesn't necessarily fit a particular model. So, in the end, what does this ultimately mean for choice for parents, and how does that play out? So, I'm sure I'm not the first person to ask you that. You know, how do you respond to that kind of criticism? Because you're saying it's not one-size-fits-all.

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, well, and it's not. So, if you look at the agreements that we've signed, the 12 agreements to date, they're all a little bit different, because in the absence of having a Canada-wide system and plan, different provinces and territories have done things differently over the past, you know, 150 years, I guess, right. And so, because of that, we've responded. So, for example, in Saskatchewan, the vast majority of childcare is home-based, and so, a lot of what the government of Saskatchewan is doing, is to try and bring that home-based care into the licence system. And so, one of the reasons why they retroactively reduced fees in November back to July, was to say, if you're a home-based provider and you want to become licenced, then as you go through this licencing process, your parents will then be eligible for these fee reductions. You know, I feel very strongly about licenced care, I think it's really important. We want to make sure, safety and security, but also the quality of the education that our children are getting. And that's why this isn't just a childcare plan, it's an early learning and childcare plan, because it really is a continuum of growth and development. And we know from extensive research that the most important years for brain development are between zero and four, and so, as we want to ensure that parents and caregivers have a safe place for their children to be watched while they're at work, we also want children to be developing as well. And so, that's where that quality piece is really important for us. But we are working with different provinces and territories, based on the experience that they've had to date, and how we can bring this into the system as a whole.

QUESTION & ANSWER

Kelly Jackson
You may have seen me glancing down here a little bit, and it's because I'm getting the audience questions in, and they are coming in fast and furious. So, I guess I kicked it off as saying I had a lot of questions, but it looks like I'm not the only one, so I'm going to turn to a few of those. So, first off, I've got—actually looks like a couple questions here, from Brandon at the Toronto Star. So, he would like to know, you said you recently told Today's Parent, you're still waiting on Ontario to “do its homework,” and submit a plan for their share of funding. Can you elaborate on that, and what exactly are you waiting for them to do?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Sure. Sneaky, Brandon, that you're asking questions during this, but fair game. Okay, so look, we've signed agreements with 12 provinces and territories to date. As you mentioned, Kelly, we launched this 10 months ago. I mean, this is pretty extraordinary in terms of how quickly we've been able to advance, and the exciting thing about this is that parents in five provinces and territories are already experiencing fee reductions. That's pretty amazing for, you know, the speed of government normally. And what we did last July is we sent the allocation of that—you know, the $30 billion over five years that we put aside for provinces and territories—we sent the allocation that was available to each province and territory. And so, every province and territory got an allocation, based on a formula of their 0 to12 population, and we said, based on this allocation, we expect that, in order for you to receive it, that you show us a plan of how you're going to reduce fees by 50% by the end of 2022; how you're going to get to $10 a day by ‘25, ’26; how you're going to increase the number of spaces available for children in your province or territory; what you're going to do for workforce supports; and how you're going to ensure quality, and inclusion in your child's care and your early learning and childcare initiative. And what happened was, 12 provinces and territories responded with what they're going to do, and then we signed agreements with those 12 provinces and territories. We are still waiting on Ontario to send us their plan on how they would meet those objectives. And that's the homework that we're still waiting for. I am very keen to receive it, because that's how we get to an agreement, because it's $10.2 billion that is Ontario's fair share, it's their allocation from the federal funding. That's a significant amount of money, that will go a long way to helping parents with the high costs of daycare in this province, and it will go a long way to creating more spaces, hiring more ECE’s, paying them better, and ensuring that quality and that inclusion. So, that's, that's what we're waiting on.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you for explaining that, because I'm sure there's also a lot of people from Ontario who have tuned in today, many may be parents who are curious what's happening with the province exactly, with those discussions. Brandon did have a second question, which I think is a good one to make sure that we air here, is if you're waiting for that homework, as you mentioned, and just wondering about whether or not there will be able to be a deal by the end of the fiscal year, and if there's sort of a concern about not—like, are there consequences to not being in agreement by the end of the fiscal?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Well, look, I mean, I said I'm optimistic because fundamentally, I'm an optimistic person. And certainly, I've heard from the Province that they do want to do this, and they're saying the right things, but I haven't yet seen the action. It is still possible, certainly, but tomorrow is March 1st; the end of the fiscal year is March 31st. There's still work to do after we get the action plan, because that is the document that then becomes the basis of negotiations to get to the agreement. That being said, what I've experienced in the agreements that I've negotiated with other provinces and territories is that once the decision has been made, that a province really does want an agreement, we can move very quickly. But, you know, we're running against the clock, and I don't really think it's fair to Ontario parents to have to keep waiting like this. Personally, I'm a mom in Ontario, right. I think that there are a lot of parents for whom having this kind of certainty, in terms of what their daycare fees will be, will be really important for them. So, yes, can we get it done? Absolutely. I mean, I've got my sleeves rolled up, I'm ready to do the work. I just need to you know, get that action plan, so that we can really get those details ironed out, so that we can get something before March 31st.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you. So, we've been getting a lot of questions about private care. So, some people are very supportive of the role of private sector plays in offering high-quality licenced childcare, and others maybe not so supportive. So, could you explain what role for-profit care will play in the agreements?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, so it depends on each province and territory, each one has done things a bit differently. What our position has been at the Federal Government is that any existing licenced care would qualify for operating costs subsidies. And so, that doesn't distinguish between whether it's for-profit, or not-for-profit, however, our objective is for growth in the sector to be in the not-for-profit space. And I think, as people can appreciate, that if we are putting public money into a new system, and new spaces, that those be funded in a not-for-profit kind of way. There are different approaches in different provinces, depending on the regulatory framework. So, for example, in PEI, there is virtually no distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit, because it's so tightly regulated that there's very little profit in the private sector. We also include in the not-for-profit bucket, any home-based care. So, those are often private operators, but they fall under the not-for-profit bucket. And so, it really depends on the province or territory, what their expansion plans are. But every operator that is currently licenced is eligible for operating subsidies, and for fee reductions. But again, how that is rolled out depends on the province or territory.

Kelly Jackson
We have a question from Janet, and I know you spoke a little bit about this, but I think this is sort of one of the big themes, and the questions I think that we will continue to see, and you'll probably continue to get, is around will you hold firm in Ontario, that no funding will go to new commercial childcare, unlicensed homecare? Are there sufficient funds to expand new spaces? Because this is essential.

The Hon. Karina Gould
So, yes, there are sufficient funds to expand new spaces. And I think, in Ontario in particular, it actually has a very different makeup than the rest of the country. So, in Ontario, I think it's close to 80% of existing licenced care is either not-for-profit, or home-based care. So, they really do have a much stronger not-for-profit sector in Ontario than many other provinces or territories. And hold and the commitment is that yes, fee reductions have to be in the licenced sector, and that's why you see provinces like Saskatchewan, for example, that are trying to use this as a carrot to bring more providers into the licenced sector. I know we're talking about Ontario, but just on Saskatchewan for a second, one of the conversations that I had with families in Saskatchewan was, you know, their preference is to have their children in the licenced sector, they just can't always find a spot. And so, it really is important for us to make sure that all of the fee reductions are in the licenced sector, to try and encourage as many providers as possible to get licenced.

Kelly Jackson
One of the questions that we have here is around the Ontario childcare community, and what can they do to support you in signing a strong agreement with Ontario. Specifically, I think, also wanting to make sure that the wage skill piece doesn't get lost in this, and I think we haven’t talked about that as much. I know you talked about it in your remarks, but I think it's certainly the case that, as we've seen, and again, the pandemic has really brought this to light, in that when we look at often those who are caring for our youngest and our oldest is society, we tend not to compensate those individuals for those professions in a way that many would say we should be doing, when you look at the work they're doing, and how critical it is.

The Hon. Karina Gould
Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, if there's anything this pandemic has taught us—which I think many of us knew before, but it came into glaring reality for us—was how important the caring economy is to the functioning of society, and how undervalued and underpaid our professional carers are, particularly our ECE’s and our PSW’s, not to mention others who are in that economy. But absolutely, I mean, this has been something that's underpinned many of our agreements, is ensuring that there is a wage grid in place for ECS, ensuring there are professional supports in place. And as I mentioned in my remarks, we don't have a childcare system without childcare providers. We don't have a childcare system without our childcare workforce, And across the country, it is felt in every province and territory, in every jurisdiction, that there is a labour shortage when it comes to ECE's. So, we have to do more to attract people to the profession, and part of that is valuing it. Part of it is saying this is a valuable career that we care about as a society, and that we think is important. And so, that means you have to be fairly compensated, and it means that we need to do professional development throughout their career as well.

So, last week in Manitoba, we made a very exciting announcement on workforce support, which included the province’s wage grid, but it also included benefits supports; a lot of ECS don't necessarily have a pension plan or they don't necessarily have benefits, so Manitoba is putting that in place. New Brunswick is another example of an agreement that was very clear on trying to ensure greater wage supports for ECE’s, not only to attract them to the profession, but also to retain them. And this is something that we make clear in every negotiation that we have with provinces and territories. Now, it's a provincial jurisdiction to set what those wages are, and to determine what the benefits may be, but we certainly impress upon our partners that this is something that's important for us as a Federal Government. But it's also important for the success of the program. So, now for the Ontario childcare sector. Keep talking about this. This is important; this matters, you matter. You know, we learned in the pandemic, that if we don't have childcare, it's really hard for our economy to function, like really, really hard. So, we have actually asked you to support the economy, so you are a strong and important stakeholder in all of this, and I know you're really busy caring for children, because taking care of little kids is a lot of work—but you need to keep speaking up, and you need to keep reaching out, right? Because you are, you know, underpinning our economy, and quite frankly, we won't be able to recover from COVID-19 without you.

Kelly Jackson
We've got a question here from Robbie, and I think it's a really interesting one, so I'm just going to read it as he's composed it. Parents have received a lot of support in the last 10 years. The highest poverty rates are now with adults who don't have children. Does this investment limit the government's ability to support adults without children?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Well, it's a really good question, Robbie, and I would say that they are all pieces of a puzzle, right? The idea is not that you benefit one group of people over another, it is that you try to provide supports to people across the spectrum of society. So, I'm the Minister responsible for childcare, so I'm obviously very, very passionate about childcare, and I see the spin-off benefits, right? Including something that I mentioned for seniors single women. I remember when I was knocking on doors in 2015, during that election, and the number of single senior women that I came across, who were living in quite abject poverty, and part of the reason is because they didn't have that long-term earning capacity; and often, they were widowed, and maybe they didn't have access to a pension or a very reduced pension benefit. When it comes to adults without children, that's one of the reasons why we've enhanced the Canada Worker’s Benefit, because we recognize that there are a number of workers in this country who are working low-wage jobs, who are still not getting out of poverty. They're working extremely hard, right, like we can't say they're not working hard, they're working extremely hard in jobs that we depend on as a society, and that's why the Canada Worker’s Benefit is important to help people who are working be able to make ends meet.

Kelly Jackson
One question here, what's the most challenging aspect of implementing this policy?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Oh, it's a great question. It's fairly early on, so I think it's a difficult one to answer, because we're early on. I think the fee reductions are one of the easier parts of it, because you can do that pretty quickly. I think what's harder is going to be two parts in particular. I think addressing the workforce issue is going to be challenging, because, as I mentioned in my remarks, I mean, if we're talking 30,000 or 40,000, new childcare workers, we have to do a lot right across this country to attract them into this profession, and then to keep them there. And this is going to be a challenge for provinces and territories, particularly those who have ECE’s in their education system. I've certainly heard from a number of my counterparts across the country that as soon as they get an ECE to come to childcare, they're kind of scooped up by the education system, because they offer better pay and better benefits. So, you know, that's something that needs to be addressed, and a number of provinces are trying to level the playing field there, so that they can keep people in the childcare setting. And then that is also going to be one of the challenges in terms of growing the sector, because you have to have the workforce to grow the sector. So, these are all things that we're thinking about every single day, to try I get right, and it's one of the reasons why we have negotiated five-year agreements, because those five-year agreements have specific benchmarks in place so that we can track and measure progress, but also so that we can re-evaluate, and pivot as needed. And what we've asked from the provinces and territories, is to send us their two-year detailed plan—within that five years, but the two years is kind of really important—and then we get together after two years and say, “okay, how have we done; what have we managed to accomplish, and where do we need to revisit this?” because we are building a brand-new system in Canada. It's very exciting, it's very, very exciting, but it won't be without challenges. It's not going to roll out perfectly, I have no doubt that there's going to be bumps along the way. So, that's why we have been very, very clear that we're creating a Federal Secretariat, to work in partnership and collaboration with provinces and territories, so that we can support each province and territory as they do the implementation, because ultimately, childcare is a provincial or territorial jurisdiction, but we want to be there to be a collaborative partner along the way.

Kelly Jackson
Yeah, and if I think about the pandemic, again, and some of the things that we've seen, we've actually seen some really interesting workforce development, collaboration between provinces and colleges, institutes, polytechnics. Where, like I think about the PSW case here in Ontario, right? The college system getting together to work with the province, to run accelerated PSW training. Could something be similarly done, where you take the curriculum, make sure all the requirements are being met, but offering an interesting, accelerated way, offer it in a way that also maybe pays students’ replacements. What are the things that can be done to attract individuals into the career path, and to help them get there quicker? So, I think there's some really neat things that maybe we’ll able to build on that we've seen, that are actually related to healthcare-related sectors and the caring economy, that maybe could be used to help in some of those instances when I think about you talking about how that's going to happen across the country.

The Hon. Karina Gould
Absolutely. And in fact, I mean, we're starting to see that in different provinces and territories where they're working, particularly with their college system. I'm gonna go back to Manitoba, just because we made that announcement last week, but you know, they're working with their colleges on providing bursaries for ECE’s. They have like three levels, they have Childcare Assistance, ECE ones, and ECE twos, depending on what they're doing. But for childcare assistance, for example, they're reimbursing the cost of their materials. So, there's many different things that provinces and territories can do that are creative, to get more people into the workforce, incentivize them, and then and then get them to stick around as well. Because what I've certainly heard from ECE’s is that they love their work, you know, they absolutely love their work, and they want to stay in the field. It's just sometimes economically, it doesn't make sense for them.

Kelly Jackson
So, I'm going to sneak in one more here. So, the last question is, how will you ensure that the funding provided is going to lead to a consistent level of quality across the country?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Excellent question. So, in each of the agreements, we have reporting requirements for each of the provinces and territories. Of course, again, provinces and territories design and develop and implement their own curriculum, but we engage quite robustly with them, and we will be requiring reporting and data on the quality of their early learning and childcare. And then I would say that stakeholders have a really important role to play in this, whether you are parents, whether you are researchers, or academics, or the media in terms of really holding all of us to account, provinces, territories, and the federal government for how this rolls out. I think that's going to be really, really important, and as I've said, in each of the announcements that I've made, particularly to stakeholders and those that have been advocating for this national early learning and childcare system for well over 50 years, is that I'm really sorry, but the work is not over, it's actually just begun. And so, even though we’ve finally gotten to this place where, you know, we've got 12 agreements in place, $30 billion on the table for the next five years, and $9 billion on an ongoing basis thereafter, we still need your help to make sure that we roll this out in the right way, in the best way, that's going to support our kids. and our families, and our economy in the best way. So, if you've been advocating for 50 years, you don't have to advocate for the system anymore to be created, but now you have to keep up the advocacy and the monitoring, and all of the engagement, to make sure that it rolls out in the best way possible.

Kelly Jackson
So, before we close out our conversation, I just wanted to give you, Minister Gould, the opportunity for any last words. Is there anything we didn't really get to, that you wanted to make sure you had the chance to share with the audience, before we thank LiUNA for being involved with this event, and helping to bring this conversation forward?

The Hon. Karina Gould
Well, just thank you so much, Kelly, and the entire team at the Empire Club, and of course, LiUNA, for sponsoring today's event. I hope it came across, despite my COVID diagnosis, the level of energy and passion and excitement that I have for this Canada-wide early learning and childcare system, because it really is going to be transformational. I mean, the economic opportunities, not just on an individual basis for parents, for women, for families, but for the economy as a whole, are really, really exciting. I mean when it comes to labour force, when it comes to what this means for our GDP, what this means for our collective prosperity, and then at the base of all of it is what it means for our kids. You know, Minister Freeland likes to say that she wants to create a generation of superkids. Well, this is where that question about quality, about early learning, about development, comes into play. And I just think that this is such an exciting opportunity that is a triple win, you know, it's a win for our kids, it's a win for parents and families and women in particular, and it's a win for the economy. So, I'm really excited to see how this plays out, and I'm really excited to see 25 years from now, what this has done to the Canadian economy, and to Canada. So, thank you so much for the opportunity.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you, Minister Gould. Yes, exciting times ahead, and I can assure you, the energy level, the excitement, is definitely palpable. I'd like to now take the opportunity to welcome Victoria Mancinelli, the Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at LiUNA, to deliver some appreciation remarks. Victoria, welcome.

Note of Appreciation by Victoria Mancinelli, Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, LiUNA
Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Kelly. On behalf of LiUNA, we represent over 140,000 members who build and strengthen Canada across various sectors, including the construction, industrial and healthcare industry. As we work to attract talent to areas of the skilled trades, and various sectors that we represent, and continue to amplify opportunities for women in the workforce, and caregivers who are re-entering the workforce, we have to continue to look at barriers that remain to not just attracting the talent, but also to retention and a path for advancement, which includes accessible childcare. I want to take this opportunity to thank you, Minister Gould, for your remarks today, and for your continued leadership and voice, for children and families across our country. It remains evident that affordable quality childcare is vital to supporting families, and skills development of our children, is a critical element in strengthening our current and future workforce, as well as playing an important role in growing and strengthening our economy. So, on behalf of LiUNA, we want to thank you again, Minister Gould, and we look forward to continuing working with you to build a resilient future for Canada. And back to you Kelly, for closing remarks.

Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
Thank you. And thanks again to LiUNA, and to all of our sponsors for your support. Thank you to our guests, and everybody who joined us today, or who will be watching later on-demand. Our next virtual event is on March 8th, at 12 noon Eastern Time. Join us as we celebrate International Women's Day, with a stellar panel including the women behind the largest tech IPO of 2021, the acquisition of one of Canada's most innovative exchanges, and the strategic transformation of Canada's largest specialty toy and bookstore, all in conversation with The Globe and Mail's Rita Trichur. More details, and complimentary registration, are available at empireclubofcanada.com. This meeting is now adjourned. I wish you a great afternoon. Take care and stay safe.

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The Hon. Karina Gould: Supporting Families and Growing the Economy


28 February, 2022 The Hon. Karina Gould: Supporting Families and Growing the Economy