Some women who operate private child care centers in Nova Scotia are promising to hold their ground in the face of a provincial ultimatum over the future of their business.
In its effort to create a $10-a-day child care system, the province is telling private child care providers they have a choice: give up their license and work under a centralized bureaucracy, or maintain the status quo and lose any government funding.
Marcia Nickerson started Allegro daycare in Halifax 25 years ago and said she wasn’t about to give up on the career and business she’s built over the past 25 years.
“I feel devastated,” she said. “I’m sad we’ve come to this…and I feel like we’ve been pushed into a corner. But make no mistake, we’re not giving up in this corner.”
She said she doubted the government would negotiate that way in a male-dominated field.
“Would that really happen anywhere else? It’s very, very unfortunate that in 2022 women are positioned like this. It’s heartbreaking, to tell you the truth.”
An “affront” to women
According to a document the Department for Education shared with commercial licensees this week, centers have until mid-March to decide whether to continue with their current approach – and forgo any government funding.
Alternatively, they can transition to be part of the Canada-Nova Scotia Pan-Canadian Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, or operate as a non-profit center.
A Yarmouth accountant who works with four private child care centers calls the proposal an “affront” to women entrepreneurs.
Adam Axworthy of Axworthy and Associates provides accounting services to two child care centers in the Yarmouth area and two others in Cape Breton. He said they had all contacted him for advice on how to respond to government requests.
But Axworthy said he didn’t have enough information to help his customers make a choice, which is doubly frustrating given the industry is dominated by women.
“We are in a time when we should embrace equality and promote female entrepreneurship,” he said. “We shouldn’t restrict it, and we should certainly give them the decency of adequate answers to form an opinion. We haven’t done that here.
“There’s so much pressure at the federal level, right now, for women’s entrepreneurship and equality. I find that to be quite…an affront to that.”
The province offered private child care operators $15,000 to seek the advice of consultants or accountants.
Not enough information
Nickerson said she had other concerns about the proposal. While she favors a more generous subsidy for childcare, she said this approach “institutionalises” childcare.
She said parents who celebrate a $10-a-day childcare plan could lose the ability to choose where their children go.
“It all depends on where a spot is available,” she said.
Axworthy said it was missing key information about the government’s state-funded plan. In most cases, he said, child care operators own their real estate and have mortgages and loans.
“You can’t make a decision until you have the facts,” he said. “What will the lease look like? How much will they get for their property? What will all the costs be and how will they be funded? Can they pay their electricity bill? »
Lack of detail leads to confusion
This confusion and pressure is felt throughout the industry.
Brigette Forrestall, co-owner of the Red Apple Children’s Center in Antigonish, said she has yet to seek advice from an accountant, simply because she has no information on options to share.
She and her partner, Haley Jordan, bought the center in July 2021.
They have one mortgage and two loans.
“There really aren’t any details to give your accountant,” Forrestall said. “There were no numbers.”
She said she felt intimidated by the province.
“I think they were hoping they could pull us aside a bit.”
Minister calls for patience
Nova Scotia Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan said the province recognizes the service provided by private child care providers and wants them to succeed in the new system.
Druhan said she understands the vendors have received a lot of information over the past week and have many questions.
“I completely hear their anxiety,” she told CBC News on Wednesday.
“I want them to know that we are working hard and working to communicate with them and engage with them so that we can understand and answer these questions for them so that they also have confidence in their future in the system. .”
The $15,000 grant, Druhan said, was made available so claimants could speak to their professional advisers, lawyers and accountants for advice.
Noting that she understands the March 18 deadline for providing feedback has caused vendors anxiety, Druhan said “no negative consequences will occur by that date and if they have not made choice”.
She said the ministry is committed to engaging with vendors before and after the deadline.
Druhan also said the structure and details of the new central agency to be created by the province are still being worked out.