Daycare, school lunch money next in line of election promises

The Yukon Party is promising to increase the amount of money available to daycares and day homes in the hopes of creating more spots for Yukon children.

The Yukon Party is promising to increase the amount of money available to daycares and day homes in the hopes of creating more spots for Yukon children.

The governing party says, if it’s elected again come November, the amount of money available for direct operating grants would jump to $10 million.

“We’re definitely hoping it will get us more daycare spaces but we’re also hoping it will encourage maybe new daycares to open up,” said Doug Graham, the Yukon Party candidate for Whitehorse Centre and current education minister.

Right now licensed daycares and day homes get an operating grant from the Department of Health and Social Services. How much they get per child is decided by a funding formula with factors like the experience of staff, building costs, the age of the children and whether the program offers a hot meal.

According to the department, a small day home could receive up to approximately $20,000 a year. A larger child care centre could bring in about $270,000 a year.

Last year $3.9 million was budgeted for the grants. According to the Yukon Party about $5 million a year usually gets spent.

There are no plans to change the formula for how the money is doled out, Graham said. Instead he hopes having $10 million in the budget will encourage new or existing daycares to offer more spaces.

Daycare spots are in short supply in the territory, Graham said.

“I have two grandsons that are in daycare as well. They had to change daycares a while ago and they spent two months at my place because of the fact that they could not get into a daycare within that two month period.”

Daycares in the communities are funded using the same formula as the ones in Whitehorse. A re-elected Yukon Party government would change that for Dawson City, Watson Lake and Ross River, Graham said.

The party is promising to launch a pilot project in those communities that would give daycares a guaranteed level of funding instead of basing funding on how many kids are in care.

“They won’t have to worry if that family with six kids moves away, that their (direct operating grant) will drop dramatically because five of those kids were in daycare,” Graham said.

Graham couldn’t say how much will be included in the base funding. Deals will be negotiated with each of the communities, he said.

A pledge for more daycare money isn’t the only election promise having to do with kids that came up this week.

Last week the Yukon Food for Learning Association published a letter claiming it wasn’t going to have enough money this year to provide food to students in need.

The association provides funding for food programs in 28 of the 29 Yukon schools.

Last year it funded nearly 200,000 breakfasts, lunches and snacks, according to the letter.

During the 2016/17 school year the association expects to spend about $157,000. The program has a budget of $138,000.

The plan is to cover the deficit using money raised in 2007 and 2009 at cooking shows.

Volunteers were predicting another $23,000 shortfall come 2017/18.

The association asked the next government to increase its funding.

The Yukon Party said it will increase funding by the necessary $23,000 next fiscal year, and commit to a review of the program.

The NDP said it was prepared to provide additional funding up to $50,000.

“Because kids can’t learn if they’re coming to school on an empty stomach,” said the NDP’s Lois Moorcroft, who’s running for re-election in Copperbelt South.

“It’s the right thing to do.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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