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New Brunswick should back universal child care

In 2021, the child care system in New Brunswick should not be a deterrent to starting a family. Nor should it be a barrier to mothers returning to the workforce. Nor should it be a factor for early childhood educators to seek better paying jobs.

Last April, the federal government announced plans to invest $30 billion over five years in Early Learning and Child Care, including for Indigenous children. It plans to reduce child care costs by 50 per cent by 2022, averaging $10 per day by 2025-2026.

This is a golden opportunity to build towards a universal child care system and implement pay equity to ensure fair wages for early childhood educators. To date, agreements have been reached with British Columbia, Yukon and all Atlantic Canada provinces—except New Brunswick. Negotiations are underway with Saskatchewan.

New Brunswick has shown interest in building a better child care system for children, parents and educators in the past, but has been lagging in negotiating an agreement with the federal government.

Equity for educators and quality services

If the government wants to provide high-quality child care services, it is not enough to provide conditional subsidies to parents. Quality care hinges on the recruitment and retention of qualified educators—workers who are currently undervalued and underpaid.

In 2019-2020, a total of 1,520 early childhood educators left their positions, accounting for 27.8 per cent of the workforce.[1] At an average wage of around $18.75 per hour for those with training, they are still far from achieving pay equity.[2]

Pay equity – an equal pay for work of equal value – is the recognition of the value of predominantly female work and ensuring that it is paid the same as predominantly male work of equal value.

In 2012, economist Ruth Rose determined that a fair wage would be $19.97 per hour.[3] That calculation would be significantly higher today, given the evolving nature of the profession, such as higher educational requirements and the rising cost of living over the past decade.

Because the system is under-resourced, the weight of employee wages falls largely on parents. Fair wages subsidized by the government would not only attract and retain qualified educators within the sector, but would also encourage new people to obtain training in the field. We need to ensure that those who care for our children are paid a living wage.

The development of our communities depends on adequate social infrastructures

In Canada, the best example of a public child care system is the Quebec model. Since its implementation in 1997, Quebec has seen an 8 per cent increase in women's participation in the labour force. In addition, women with children under the age of three have among the highest employment rates in the world.[4] 

At present, the participation rate of women in the labour market in New Brunswick stands at 57.9per cent—the second lowest in the country. [5] With nearly 120,000 jobs expected to be filled over the next 10 years, it is in the province's best interest to maximize the participation of half of its population, namely women. This will stimulate the economy, reduce the demand for social assistance programs and contribute to increased tax revenues.

According to a 2017 study, provincial GDP could have risen by 3 to 4 per cent between 2016 and 2026 if women's participation in the workforce had increased. [6] Studies show that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the broader economy reaps between $1.50 and $2.80.[7]

However, high costs of child care have proven to be a deterrent to women's participation in the labour force, even before the advent of COVID-19. [8] Critics may point out that our costs on average are lower than those of more populous provinces in Canada, but so are our wages...

In 2020, the median monthly cost of infant care varied up to $868/month depending on the region of New Brunswick. The reduction of fees to $10/day, envisioned by the federal government, would save New Brunswick parents up to $7,816 per child annually.[9] It should be noted that in provinces and territories that have adopted policies that facilitate women's employment, such as affordable early learning and child care, there has been an increase in the birth rate and economic development.[10]

We have a unique opportunity to establish a universal child care system. An opportunity to negotiate a system that will ensure fair wages for our educators, quality services for our children, and encourage the full participation of our citizens in the workforce. We have long argued that such a system is an important pillar of the social and economic infrastructure of our province.

This is an opportunity for New Brunswick to lead a transformative moment—let's not miss it.


Krysta Cowling
Chair of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity


[1] GNB. « Rapport annuel de statistiques des Services de garderie éducatifs 2019-2020 ». 2020,

[2] C:\Users\user\Dropbox\CFC Valorisation - Sécurité économique\Budgets - Investissements salariaux.xlsx

[3] Coalition pour l’équité salariale du Nouveau Brunswick Inc. «Un système public de garde d’enfants : la nouvelle frontière de l’égalité des chances ». 2015,

[4] Department of Finance Canada. “Budget 2021: A Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan”. 2021,

[5] Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0287-03  Labour force characteristics by province, monthly, seasonally adjusted.

[6] The power of parity: Advancing women's equality in Canada. 2017. McKinsey Global Institute

[7] Department of Finance Canada. “Budget 2021: A Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan”. 2021,

[8] Fortin, Pierre. « Quels effets le système de garde à l’enfance universel du Québec a-t-il eus sur la sécurité économique des femmes ? ». 2017,

[9] 868$ x 12 mois = 10 416$ - (10$ x 5 jours x 52 semaines = 2 600$) = 7 816$/année

[10] Commission d’étude sur les services de garde du Nouveau-Brunswick. « Valoriser les enfants, les familles et les services de garderie éducatifs ». 2016,