The federal government said Friday it would spend an extra $2.4 million on early childhood education in the NWT in the coming fiscal year.
The announcement book-ended a week that started with plans for a $60 million carve-out of a national housing fund, also to be spent in the NWT in the coming months.
Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development and R.J Simpson, minister of Education, Culture and Employment virtually announced a federal contribution of $2.4 million for early learning and child care.
Funds are to be spent during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The spending announcement comes ahead of a federal budget that is scheduled for April 19.
“We have all been working hard to ensure that every child has the best possible start in life,” Hussen said. “And we know that Canadian families are still struggling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic support.”
The funding also recommits Canada to its three-year bilateral agreement with the Northwest Territories’ for early learning and child care programs, which started in 2017-18. That agreement has led to $10 million the NWT receiving to date.
Simpson said that Friday’s announcement will help his government meet one of the biggest priorities of its mandate.
“The $2.4 million investment announced today helps our government deliver access to supports, community-based programming and crucial services for children, and allows us to provide further opportunities for high quality, affordable childcare, where our residents need it most,” he said.
The money will be spread out across all 33 communities in the Northwest Territories and is to be directed to a variety of department programs related to childhood education including health and safety funding, supports for residents pursuing education in early childhood learning, scholarships, and day rates for programs, he said.
Fall economic statement
The ministers were asked about the extent to which monies might address the North’s ongoing need to retain early childhood educators.
Hussen said the federal government’s fall economic statement has committed to providing $420 million across the country for training, hiring and wage top-ups in support of the early childhood educator workforce.
He said additional money to support the northern early childhood learning workforce should be coming to the NWT next year.
“That is something that we will be talking (about) with the Government of the Northwest Territories,” Hussen said. “Specifically between myself and Mr. Simpson, we will be having a discussion on the Northwest Territories government’s share of that $420 million.”
Hussen said there has also been money spent last year on childcare through the $14.5 million Safe Restart Agreement announced for the NWT last September.
“That amount was actually $2.7 million that was given to the Northwest Territories under the Safe Restart Agreement to address the reduced availability of childcare and the unique pressures that the childcare sector face because of the pandemic in Northwest Territories,” Hussen said.