• Letter to Cathy Montreuil, Deputy Minister of Education and Early Learning

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    January 11, 2022
     
    Ms. Cathy Montreuil
    Deputy Minister of Education and Early Learning
    Province of Nova Scotia
    Cathy.montreuil@novascotia.ca
     
    RE: Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement
     
     
    Dear Deputy Minister,
     
    We are writing today to convey grave concerns raised by our members in Nova Scotia regarding the implementation process for the Nova Scotia Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement (NSCWELCC). The Atlantic Chamber of Commerce is requesting the Government of Nova Scotia extend the response deadlines for day care operators to enable them to make an informed decision about their business.  In short, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the program and too much emphasis on meeting federal-provincial deadlines. This is creating confusion and causing stress amongst for-profit childcare providers.
     
    First and foremost, we want to express that there is broad support for the objectives of the NSCWELCC agreement, and if implemented appropriately, this funding could bring long-term improvement to enduring issues like cost, availability, staff training, and improved developmental outcomes for our children. However, given the timelines established by the province, it appears the private sector childcare operators (who provide about 50% of current spaces) will have only two months to consult with legal and financial advisors about the prospect of overhauling their current business model to participate in the program.
     
    As the province will undoubtedly be reliant upon the existing childcare operators, it is critical the timelines be extended, and the reliability of communication be improved to provide adequate time and information for them to make significant decisions about their business. Based on the information circulated to date, it is impossible to determine if, or why, not-for-profit providers will be advantaged in future funding arrangements and whether, or if, for-profit operators will be able to grow and fund operations under a framework that fundamentally changes the marketplace for daycare.
     
    We are aware the province will conduct information sessions on January 13, 2022, and then require responses to Expressions of Interest from operators by January 19, 2022. And further a final decision by operators is required by mid-March on whether to conform with the currently undefined participation regulations. These are decisions which will materially impact the nature of future operations and the intrinsic valuation of businesses some owners have spent decades building.
     
    The deadlines and conditions of the Federal-Provincial agreement are arbitrary in the sense that the entities who will be most affected, for-profit day care operators in Nova Scotia, have not had the opportunity to be consulted or participate in the development of these deadlines to ensure they are even feasible. While the offer of $15,000 for professional advice is generous, it does not diminish the fact that private sector operators are potentially being put at a significant disadvantage as a means of fulfilling government policy priorities.
     
    By minimizing consultation with those who will provide the required child-care spaces, the government may be putting the success of the entire program at risk. Our members have engaged us on this issue expressing concern and annoyance with the process so far, and we respectfully request a meeting with you to clarify parameters, avoid unintended outcomes in child-care, and conduct a more comprehensive consultation with child-care operators who are facing uncertainty and concerned for the future of their businesses.
     
     
    Kind regards
     
    Sheri Somerville
    CEO, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce
     
     
    Cc:
    Denise.Stone@novascotia.ca  Executive Director or Early Learning and Child Care
    Shelley.Thompson@novascotia.ca  Executive Lead, Early Learning Priorities & Strategic Initiatives 
    Anne-Marie.Smith@novascotia.ca  Director of Projects, Canada-Wide Early Learning & Child Care Implementation
    Janet.Huntington@novascotia.ca  Executive Director, Department of Education and Pre-Primary