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N.B. government hoping to create 3,400 child-care spaces by 2026 to meet demand

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The New Brunswick government is calling on prospective or current child-care centres to apply for more spaces, in order to meet a growing demand.

The department of education and early childhood development says its provincial waitlist has grown to over 3,300 children, in both the Anglophone and Francophone sectors.

That waitlist isn’t very old, and some suspect that number is larger since many families are on individual child-care centre waitlists.

“It’s very, very desperate. There's a lot of parents that cannot go back to work because they don't have child care,” said child-care advocate Isabelle Forest. “The spaces for babies or infants that are 0 to 24 months are lacking. They’re the worst. They're lacking the most.”

The department’s deputy ministers acknowledge the problem, and say they’re trying to find ways to meet the demand.

“Unless you have a space today it takes months, sometimes more than a year to open your facility. So allocating the space today to when it's filled is really important,” said Ryan Donaghy, deputy minister in the Anglophone sector.

The department is asking that anyone interested in creating a child-care centre, or who is operating an existing centre and are looking to expand, to apply for the spaces.

That includes not-for-profit and for-profit child-care centres, although there is more space available for the not-for-profit centres.

Julie Mason, deputy minister in the francophone sector, says they’re encouraging both to apply.

About 68 per cent of the facilities in the province are for-profit, and the remaining 32 per cent are not-for-profit.

The federal government, under its Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement, prioritizes not-for-profit centres, because they are “generally considered to have a higher quality of service,” according to a presentation by the department.

In N.B., due to its designation requirements, both not-for-profit and for-profit centres have to adhere to the same checks and balances, so they’re asking both sectors to apply, aiming to have the 3,400 spaces in place by March 31, 2026.

Donaghy also said conversations are happening between government and operators about funding, but that there was “nothing to announce today.”

There are concerns that there are not enough educators to create the extra spaces, but Liberal MLA Francine Landry says she doesn’t think that’s an issue everywhere.

“I spoke with an owner in Edmundston and she wanted to create 94 spaces and she was only allocated 35,” she said. “And I said, ‘There’s no issue for you to find the workers that you will need?’ and she said no.”

Infant spaces are in the most demand. The Fredericton region has the largest waitlist for infant spaces with 219 Anglophone and Francophone children waiting. Next is the Fundy region, with 203 children on the provincial list.

“We're speaking with child-care centers that have over 150, 200 people on the waiting lists. And there are some spaces that are empty because they can't get designated licenses for the spaces,” said Forest.

The call for applications is open-ended, without a set deadline.

The province says anyone looking to open a designated facility in a home within a smaller community do not have to go through the call for proposals process.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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