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Alberta's Federal Child Care Agreement Fizzles in First Year

Province spent only about a quarter of its federal funding because of implementation challenges


28 May, 2024

OTTAWA, ON – A new study is shedding light on the difficulties Alberta’s government has had in implementing the federal government’s problem-riddled national child care program. A review of government records by think tank Cardus found that Alberta managed to spend only about a quarter its almost $403 million in funding for the first year of its Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the federal government.

Alberta had to put off more than $400 million in federal child care funding to a future year, according to Child Care Funding Update: Alberta—Year One, because the province wasn’t able to implement most of the incredibly complex agreement with the federal government in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The federal government insisted on an agreement that heavily favoured non-profit and public child care providers. This made implementation of the deal especially difficult in Alberta where for-profit providers operate the majority of licensed spaces.

“Federal priorities are not well aligned with provincial realities,” says Peter Jon Mitchell, family program director at Cardus. “Surprisingly, Alberta put zero dollars toward the creation of child care spaces in Year One despite committing to substantially increasing spaces over the five-year agreement.”

Alberta’s agreement with the federal government targeted 42,500 new spaces among not-for-profit and public providers by year five, as well as the creation of 1,500 new spaces among for-profit providers. The agreement was amended in April 2022 to increase the number of new for-profit spaces to receive funding to 2,700.

Following the creation of a For-Profit Expansion Plan and a cost-control framework, a January 2023 amendment authorized funding for an additional 22,500 for-profit spaces, 6,000 of which could be created in year two. In total, a maximum of 26,200 for-profit spaces can be created with agreement funding over the life of the five-year agreement.

Future Cardus briefs will examine the implementation of these amendments. Child Care Funding Update: Alberta—Year One is freely available online.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

Cardus – Imagination toward a thriving society
Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.