Advertisement

Nova Scotia still mulling elimination of daycare waitlist fees

The province says it has identified some daycares that are charging waitlist fees. (Rawpixel/Shutterstock - image credit)
The province says it has identified some daycares that are charging waitlist fees. (Rawpixel/Shutterstock - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government took a stance against waitlist fees for daycares months ago, but it has yet to decide what it will do to stop the practice.

Last fall, Education Minister Becky Druhan directed staff to look at the possibility of eliminating waitlist fees that are charged by some daycare operators to families without any guarantee of actually providing child care.

Three months later, her deputy minister said that work continues.

"You would have heard our minister in the legislature identify that we are going to solve this problem," Elwin LeRoux told reporters following a committee meeting last week. "She has asked me to bring forward options for that. We will be doing that very soon so that we can solve the problem."

Elwin LeRoux, Deputy Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, speaking to reporters on Jan. 17, 2024.
Elwin LeRoux, Deputy Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, speaking to reporters on Jan. 17, 2024.

Elwin LeRoux, deputy minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, says he will soon have several options for addressing waitlist fees, which he'll present to the education minister. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The practice is not widespread, but a spokesperson said the department has found "a few centres currently charging waitlist fees."

Among them are Kids & Company and the Maritime Muslim Academy, which charge $200 and $100, respectively, to add a child's name to their lists.

Working on several options 

LeRoux said he'll offer several options to the minister. Legislation could be a solution, but he said there are likely faster options available.

Other provinces have addressed waitlist fees through legislation, regulation and other means that include funding agreements with operators.

Child with puzzle.
Child with puzzle.

Waitlist fees do not guarantee that a family will get a space in the daycare. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

NDP MLA Lisa Lachance said they'd like to see a centralized waitlist, managed by the province, to take the administrative burden off daycare operators and eliminate the need for waitlist fees.

Lachance said a central list would also help the province better understand demand, and help families better understand their chances of getting a spot.

"We really have no idea what's happening," Lachance said. "What we know is that we hear from parents all the time, I see it on social media all the time, friends saying, 'Hey listen, I've got my child on four waitlists and I can't get any answers if I'm going to be able to go back to work in September.'"

Considering a centralized waitlist 

Pam Aucoin, executive director of early learning and child care, said a centralized list is under consideration, but she had reservations about how effective it would be.

She said there are about 330 daycare operators across the province, each with its own policies and processes for managing waitlists and registration.

Pam Aucoin, executive director of early learning and childcare for Nova Scotia's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, speaking to reporters on Jan. 17, 2024 following a committee meeting.
Pam Aucoin, executive director of early learning and childcare for Nova Scotia's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, speaking to reporters on Jan. 17, 2024 following a committee meeting.

Pam Aucoin, executive director of early learning and child care, says a centrally managed waitlist comes with pros and cons. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"It is a very significant change across the sector to look to moving to a centralized waitlist management function," Aucoin said.

"In order for us to really make an informed decision about that, we do need to consult with the sector."

Aucoin said that other provinces have implemented centralized waitlists "to varying degrees of success," so Nova Scotia is moving carefully.

"We want to make sure that if that's something that we're going to do, that we make sure we do it well."

MORE TOP STORIES