Staffing issues affecting Nunavut daycares, MLA says
George Hickes questions education minister over compensation for childcare workers
Staffing issues are impacting the availability of existing daycare spots and Nunavut’s ability to create more spaces, according to Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes.
He said the issue is not new, and the lack of staff to operate daycare facilities is a problem Canada-wide.
“Questions are continuing to rise on the wisdom of governments announcing that they’re building new childcare spaces when workers aren’t available to staff existing ones,” Hickes said at the legislative assembly Tuesday.
“There are many stories of daycare centres running at half capacity, asking parents to take their kids out of care for a day or two or a week, even shutting down operations entirely, all for lack of staff,” Hickes added.
“The staffing crisis threatens to make an already long wait for daycare spots even longer. This worker shortage jeopardizes and threatens the vision of making affordable, high-quality daycare accessible for all parents.”
Across Nunavut, a total of 1,082 licensed daycare spots serve approximately 4,385 children from infants to those four years old, according to the 2021 census.
The Government of Nunavut has committed to creating 238 new childcare spots by March 2026.
Hickes questioned Education Minister Pamela Gross on what her department is doing to address not only the lack of daycare spots in Nunavut, but the staffing shortage he said influences their operation and availability.
“It’s been stated that it’s the worst workforce crisis childcare has ever faced,” Hickes said during question period.
“Childcare advocates say the root cause involves poor wages and benefits, giving workers little incentive to stay in the sector.”
Gross responded, saying the Education Department works with local organizations and individuals interested in opening and operating daycares in their community.
To help address “wage fairness” for childcare workers, Gross said her department is working to create a wage grid to provide parity across the system.
It is also using interim measures for licensed staff at licensed childcare facilities, such as a wage top-up and retention bonus.
“The wage top-up is $4.50 an hour above the worker’s current pay, and out of the 52 childcare centres we have supported over $2.5 million for this fiscal year,” Gross said.
“We’ve also had a retention bonus that was offered to our full-time childcare workers, who received $4,000 twice this year, part-time childcare workers received $2,000 twice this year, and casual childcare workers received $1,000 twice this year.
“So out of that, 47 childcare centres accessed the retention bonus, which amounts to over $2.6 million.”