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Beyond the Market: The Case for Public Childcare


November 21, 2015 at 2:30pm - 3:45pm


Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Alberta
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with Martha Friendly and Julie Hrdlicka

No government has taken on the challenge of creating a publicly funded, comprehensive system for early childhood care. Can Alberta become a leader where no one else in the country has before? 

Progressive childcare policy in Alberta? Getting from here to there

Treating childcare as a market system has left the supply of quality childcare inadequate to meet the need. Fees are out of reach of many families, while care and education services are disconnected from one another and so less effective. The election of a progressive Alberta government and the potential election of a federal government with a commitment to a national childcare program, however, could open a window for change to create a comprehensive public system of care. If there is an opening to change child care in Alberta, how could we go about it? What are Alberta’s childcare assets, what are the pitfalls, what are the options and what can be learned from elsewhere?

Martha Friendly is the executive director of Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit. She has authored numerous books, reports, articles and popular pieces and is a regular media commentator on childcare. With other researchers, social justice and early childhood groups, her goal is a universal, national high quality ECEC program. Trent University awarded Martha an honourary Doctor of Laws degree in 2015.

Replacing the childcare market model

Thousands of Alberta families struggle without access to affordable, quality childcare. Families are forced to make difficult decisions such as exiting the workforce or leaving their children in unsupervised or unlicensed care because we lack an equitable system to accommodate them. Lack of quality spaces, high costs for quality care, low wages and limited training for workers in the sector has led to a child care crises in our province. It is time to replace our childcare market model with an affordable and quality system which is accessible to all Alberta children. This can be done. And with a new government in place, who has a committed to bring in $25/day childcare, we have the opportunity to make it happen.

Julie Hrdlicka was elected in April 2015 as the Calgary Board of Education Trustee for wards 11 & 13. She has made a career as a human rights, social justice and environmental advocate. With a degree in international relations she has been committed to working on local issues of poverty, childcare and inequality along with international issues of peace and human rights. Over the past 10 years Julie has worked for both the Parkland Institute and Public Interest Alberta.