This is a good-news story about the expansion of child care capacity.
Right now, there are not many good-news stories; child care expansion is happening much slower than it should be. And all the indications are that even the 250,000 additional child care spaces that provinces and territories have planned (but not funded!) by 2026 will not be enough. TD Economics, in its recent publication, calculates that at least 243,000 MORE spaces will be needed to satisfy demand for child care when it is available at $10 a day.
So, we had better get working on designing, funding and building extra child care capacity.
Manitoba has a good plan for how to expand child care services in rural, remote and northern communities. It’s called the Ready-to-Move project. Its origins were with the 2017 Canada-Manitoba ELCC agreement when the Department of Families in Manitoba developed three rural child care facilities through a modular construction project. The initiative was developed by the Department in co-operation with Manitoba’s Social Innovation Office which seeks innovative solutions for complex social and environmental issues. By the way, Early Learning and Child Care is , since 2022, part of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Learning.
The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region has an incorporated entity called JQ Built that is providing project management support to municipalities that wanted to be involved. The result is known by the name “Daycare in a Box”. It creates modular buildings with a pre-fabricated construction process. The child care centres are made in a manufacturing facility in Winnipeg and transported to a permanent site in the relevant municipality for assembly.
To date, there are 23 communities with projects approved and another 14 applications being considered for future rounds of development. The first batch of facilities began construction in February 2023, and the first facility is planned for opening on July 21, 2023. That’s quick!
Municipalities and First Nations communities that want to participate have to provide serviced land in their community rent-free for 15 years. And they have to agree to provide maintenance, snow clearing and repair services for this period.
The province is providing 100% of the capital funding for the centres. This is an investment of between $4 million and $6 million each depending upon the size of facility. A 74-space facility is about $4 million while a 104-space facility is closer to $6 million. The centres will become municipal assets.
So, let’s make a tally:
100% capital funding from the province – check
Municipalities and First Nations communities have serious skin in the game – check
There is an experienced public sector project manager to provide development services that child care centre leadership cannot readily do – check
The centres become municipal assets in perpetuity – check
The whole process is designed to provide new spaces quickly in areas that are currently underserved – check.
I like it.
Of course, it’s only a beginning. It is not the model for every situation. And attracting sufficient fully-qualified educators is still an unsolved problem. But, it’s a good initiative that deserves attention from other jurisdictions. Good on you, Manitoba.