Op-Ed: The New Brunswick childcare crisis

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As a part-time childcare educator, I have witnessed the crucial role daycare plays in children’s life. Not only is it educational, but it also helps develop social skills. Beyond that, daycare in its most fundamental form is a place for parents to send their children while they work to financially support their families. Not having access to childcare impacts families in multiple ways.

Kylie Mackenzie/Submitted

When you stop to think about how important childcare is to the functioning of our society, it seems like it should be a basic human right. Sadly, it’s not. Finding an open space in a daycare is like finding a needle in a haystack. 

As someone with experience working in childcare, I know there are daycares in our community that won’t have infant spaces until 2025. That means parents who have children this year, won’t have childcare for their babies after maternity, paternity, or adoptive leave.

Inspire Early Learning Center is one of the newer daycares to be opened in the Saint John area in September of 2021 and has a waiting list of over 150 people. The Director of Inspire ELC commented on this saying, “Within nine months of opening we were at capacity and had an infant waiting list of over a year.”

In 2021, New Brunswick signed a deal with Ottawa that will eventually reduce child-care costs to $10 per day and create 3400 designated child-care spaces in 2021-2026. Now two years later, there has been no improvement. If anything, the situation has worsened. It seems like the government does not understand the urgency of the childcare shortage.

In addition, a government policy introduced in 2022 only allowed new designated spaces to be created where the government deems there’s a need and favors the creation of new spaces in not-for-profit facilities. So, despite there being a desperate need for more daycares to be opened and more spaces to be created, the government is now restricting who can open a daycare, as well as where and when they can open it.

Kylie Mackenzie/Submitted

The Director of Inspire Early Learning Center touched on their experience with this new policy by stating, “We have been waiting to open a childcare center in a much-needed area since May 2022 and we are still waiting on approval. This area only has one other designated learning center. We already have a waiting list for this center, and we have not even begun advertising simply word of mouth.”

Parents do not have time to wait around and hope a childcare spot will magically open up. They’re trying to get back to work. They’re trying to afford living today when the cost of everything is incredibly straining, especially for new parents. With the rising costs, some parents can no longer afford to take maternity, paternity, or adoptive leave so infant childcare spaces are needed now more than ever.

After dealing with a global pandemic where childcare was considered an essential service, why is it now being regulated and restricted? We are still in a time of crisis and many families are struggling to make ends meet. Wondering if they will be able to find a safe place for their children to learn, play, and grow is not something any parent should deal with.

This is an issue that is affecting our community and affecting students here at UNBSJ. The Director of Inspire Early Learning Center mentioned this by saying, “I get calls daily looking for infant and preschool spaces from people who are new to New Brunswick as well as many calls from people who are attending a university or college in Saint John.”

How are parents expected to get jobs or an education without childcare?

Kylie Mackenzie/Submitted

I spoke to a parent who has been searching for childcare spaces for their children in the Saint John area and this is what they had to say: “My experience in finding childcare has been terrible, my kids currently have no childcare therefore they’re being taken care of by my in-laws which has been amazing but not the arrangement we want long term… I run a business in Saint John and my husband works at Point Lepreau, of course, there are many childcare facilities between there and where I live now but we both work late shifts, and having to have someone else pick up our children is already a big enough ask without asking them to go to a different town altogether, it’s just not feasible for us!”

This is not only a pressing issue in our community. This is a provincial concern. Actions need to be taken and they need to be taken fast. New Brunswick families should not have to worry about finding a safe place for their children to go during the day. Childcare is essential, and a basic human right.

Kylie is a second year Arts student who plans on majoring in English. Most days when Kylie's not studying, she can be found reading, baking, drinking coffee, or talking about her three dogs. She's very passionate about education, human rights, and literature.