Understanding the bilateral agreement

In the 2021 federal budget, the Canadian government announced its long-awaited Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care plan, designating $30 billion to bring parent fees down to an average of $10-a-day across the country. The Canadian government also intends to invest $9.2 billion in regulated child care per year starting in the 2025-26 fiscal year, with a future objective of reaching a 50/50 cost-share with provinces.

The agreement is the most significant federal financial and policy commitment to child care to date. It means that child care centres across Canada will receive substantial public funding for the first time ever, and each province will work toward a universalized system based on common principles, bilateral agreements and action plans developed in partnership with Ottawa.

This influx of funding is great news for the child care sector, but has created a lot of uncertainty for workers, parents, and sector stakeholders.

There is wide concern about the federal government’s big promises to improve the quality and expansion of child care without addressing systemic workforce problems. Bringing down parent fees is easy to implement, but provinces won’t meet their expansion targets if they don’t address the current shortage of child care workers and they lack plans to attract new ECEs with better wages, benefits, and pensions.

The announcement of the federal child care plan has resulted in a renewed calls to increase the wage floor for ECEs and all child care staff.

CUPE will continue to build sector-wide advocacy for publicly delivered, universal and accessible child care, and support sector-wide advocacy for improved wages, benefits, and working conditions in child care.