Canada – Northwest Territories Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement – 2021 to 2026

Official title: Canada – Northwest Territories Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement

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List of abbreviations

CW-ELCC
Canada-wide early learning and child care
DECE
Department of Education, Culture and Employment
DESDA
Department of Employment and Social Develompent Act
ECE
early childhood educators
ECIF
Early Childhood Infrastructure Fund
ECP
Early Childhood Program
EDI
Early Development Instrument
ELCC
Early learning and child care
ELF
Early Learning Framework
IELCC
Indigenous early learning and child care
JK
Junior kindergarten
K
Kindergarten
GNWT
Government of Northwest Territories
HSS
Departments of Health and Social Services
IA
Income assistance
ISD
Integrated service delivery
NWT
Northwest Territories
OAG
Office of the Auditor General
RFTS Framework
Framework for Early Childhood Development: Right from the Start
SCIP
Supporting Child Inclusion and Participation
SFA
Student financial assistance

Canada – Northwest Territories Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement

Between:

  • Her Majesty The Queen In Right Of Canada (hereinafter referred to as “Canada” or “Government of Canada”) as represented by the Minister of Employment and Social Development (“Canada”) and as represented by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (herein referred to as “the Federal Minister”); and
  • the Government Of The Northwest Territories (hereinafter referred to as “the Northwest Territories” or “Government of the Northwest Territories”) as represented by the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (herein referred to as “Territorial Minister”)

Referred to collectively as the “Parties”.

Preamble

Whereas, Canada and the Northwest Territories agreed to a Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework on June 12, 2017 which articulated their shared vision for early learning and child care and describes their approach to achieve this vision.

Whereas, Canada and the Northwest Territories will work together to build a community-based system of quality, regulated early learning and child care, aiming for all families to have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live.

Whereas, building on the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, Budget 2021 commits almost $30 billion over 5 years and provides permanent ongoing funding to work with provincial and territorial, and Indigenous partners to support quality, not-for-profit child care, and ensure early childhood educators are at the heart of the system. Combined with previous investments announced since 2015, approximately $9.2 billion per year ongoing will be invested in child care, including Indigenous early learning and child care (IELCC), starting in fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

Whereas, Canada’s spending in early learning and child care is intended to increase until it is roughly shared with provinces and territories by fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

Whereas, to further support a lasting federal commitment, Canada is committed to tabling early learning and child care legislation in fall 2021, following consultations with stakeholders, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, to enshrine the principles of a Canada-wide ELCC system into law.

Whereas, the Department of Employment and Social Development Act (DESDA) authorizes the federal Minister to enter into agreements with the provinces and territories, for the purpose of facilitating the formulation, coordination and implementation of any program or policy falling within DESDA.

Whereas, the Child Day Care Act authorizes the territorial Minister to enter in agreements with the Government of Canada under which Canada undertakes to provide funding toward costs incurred by the Government of the Northwest Territories for the provision of early learning and child care.

Whereas, Canada has, pursuant to its Policy on Transfer Payments, established a transfer payment program to provide funds to the provincial and territorial governments for the development and delivery of regulated child care programs and services.

Whereas, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has called “upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families”.

Whereas, Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council jointly released the co-developed Indigenous ELCC Framework in September 2018, which establishes overarching principles and sets a vision for happy and safe Indigenous children and families, strong cultural identity, and a comprehensive and coordinated system that is anchored in self-determination and centered on children and grounded in culture, and can be used as a guide for all actors involved in Indigenous ELCC.

Whereas, the Northwest Territories invests in early learning and child care for Indigenous children and Canada and the Northwest Territories agree to work collaboratively with Indigenous governing bodies and organizations to achieve a Canada-wide ELCC system.

Now therefore, Canada and the Northwest Territories agree as follows.

1.0 Vision for Canada-wide early learning and child care

1.1 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that the long-term vision and objectives for Canada-wide ELCC set out in the Multilateral Framework will guide the investment of funds provided under this Agreement. This includes the vision that all families in Canada have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live.

1.2 Canada and the Northwest Territories aspire to the following objectives:

  1. providing a 50% reduction in average parent fees for regulated ELCC by the end of 2022 and reaching an average of $10 a day by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 for all regulated child care spaces
  2. creating more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, primarily through not-for-profit and public child care providers
  3. addressing barriers to provide inclusive and flexible child care
  4. valuing the early childhood workforce and providing them with training and development opportunities

1.3 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that progress toward this vision will be undertaken by prioritizing federal investments in support of regulated early learning and child care and for children under age 6.

2.0 Canada-wide early learning and child care objectives and areas of investment

2.1 Objectives

2.1.1 Canada and the Northwest Territories commit to the following territorial objectives:

  • affordability:
    • the Northwest Territories commits to using federal funding to reduce out-of-pocket parent fees for regulated ELCC spaces for children under age 6 by an average of 50% from 2019 levels by the end of 2022
    • the Northwest Territories commits to using federal funding to reduce out-of-pocket parent fees for full-time regulated ELCC spaces for children under age 6 to an average of $10 per day by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • access:
    • the Northwest Territories commits to using federal funding to increase the net number of regulated child care spaces for children under age 6 by at least 300 spaces to achieve a coverage rate of 59% by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
    • in creating these 300 child care spaces, the Northwest Territories commits that:
      • federal funding will be used exclusively to support not-for-profit, public child care providers or operations, as well as family-based child care (family day homes)
      • federal funding will be exclusively used to support regulated child care delivery by licensed providers
  • quality:
    • the Northwest Territories commits to use federal funds to demonstrate meaningful progress on improving quality, including:
      • developing and implementing evidence based quality frameworks, standards, and tools for early learning and child care
      • developing a wage grid for early childhood educators and committing to its implementation
      • increasing the percentage of child care workers providing regulated child care in the territory who fully meet the Northwest Territories’ credentialing and/or certification requirements to at least 30% by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 and 60% by fiscal year 2030 to 2031, as set out in the action plan
  • inclusive:
    • the Northwest Territories commits to develop and fund a plan to ensure that new space creation ensures diverse and/or vulnerable children and families, including children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports, Indigenous children, Black and other racialized children, children of newcomers, and official language minorities, have spaces equivalent to or greater than their share of the population in the territory
    • in supporting inclusive child care, the Northwest Territories commits:
      • to track the number of inclusive spaces with inclusive programming created and converted as well as the annual public expenditures on child care programming dedicated to children from diverse and/or vulnerable families
    • data sharing and reporting:
      • the Northwest Territories commits to share financial and administrative data (including micro data) needed to monitor progress in establishing the Canada-wide system

2.1.2 The Northwest Territories’ policy and approach to achieving these objectives is set out in its action plan attached as Annex 2.

2.2 Eligible areas of investment

2.2.1 The Northwest Territories agrees to use funds provided by Canada under this Agreement to support the expansion of regulated child care, and prioritize not-for-profit (including publically delivered) early learning and child care programs and services,for children under the age of 6, where:

  1. regulated programs and services are defined as those that meet standards that are established and/or monitored by provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous governments and authorities
  2. not-for-profit providers and operations, which includes publically delivered operations, are defined as those that provide child care services to a community for a purpose other than generating a profit, typically improving family and/or child well being and/or development. Providers may generate a profit, but the surplus earnings, or other resources, are directed towards improving child care services rather than distributed for the personal benefit of owners, members, investors or to enhance asset growth. Early learning and child care programs and services are defined as those supporting direct care and early learning for children in settings including, but not limited to, regulated child care centres, regulated family child care homes, early learning centres, preschools and nursery schools

2.2.2 In developing and delivering its ELCC programs and services, the Northwest Territories agrees to take into account the needs of official language minority communities in its jurisdiction.

2.2.3 Acceptable investments under this Agreement may include, but are not limited to: capital and operating funding for regulated ELCC; fee subsidies; training, professional development and support for the early childhood workforce; quality assurance; parent information and referrals; and certain administration costs incurred by the Northwest Territories to support the growth and expansion of the child care system, and the implementation and administration of this Agreement.

2.2.4 Canada and the Northwest Territories also agree to promote, define, and deliver innovative approaches to enhance the quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity of ELCC systems, with consideration for those more in need.

2.2.5 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that funding will be targeted toward regulated programs and activities, as described above, for children under age 6, that will have an impact on families, including families more in need such as lower-income families, Indigenous families, lone-parent families, and families in underserved communities, including Black and racialized families; families of children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports; and families with caregivers who are working non-standard hours. Needs also include having limited or no access to ELCC programs and services in the children’s official language.

3.0 Period of Agreement

3.1 This Agreement shall come into effect upon the last signature being affixed and will remain in effect until March 31, 2026, unless terminated in writing by Canada or the Northwest Territories in accordance with the terms hereof in section 10. Funding provided under this Agreement, in accordance with section 4, will cover the period from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2026.

3.2 Canada-wide early learning and child care bilateral agreements

3.2.1 Extension of this Agreement beyond March 31, 2026 will provide the Northwest Territories and Canada the opportunity to review and course correct, if required, and realign new priorities in future agreements based on progress made to date.

3.2.2 In the event this Agreement is extended in accordance with the terms of sections 3.2.1 and 9.0, the Northwest Territories may continue to use funding provided to cover the same eligible areas of investment as those covered through funding received for the period of fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 subject to the terms and conditions of that extended Agreement.

4.0 Financial provisions

4.1 These contributions are in addition to and not in lieu of those that Canada currently pays to the Northwest Territories through the Canada Social Transfer in order to support early childhood development and ELCC within the Northwest Territories.

4.2 Allocation to the Northwest Territories

4.2.1 Subject to Parliamentary approval of appropriations, Canada has designated the following maximum amounts to be transferred in total to all provinces and territories under this initiative with a fixed base rate of $2 million per year for each province and territory and the balance of the funding on a per child (0 to 12) basis for the period starting on April 1, 2021 and ending on March 31, 2026. This funding includes financial commitments made as part of the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 Canada-wide early learning and child care agreements.

  1. $2,948,082,433 for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2021
  2. $4,489,349,839 for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2022
  3. $5,538,345,183 for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2023
  4. $6,492,201,954 for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2024
  5. $7,718,943,823 for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2025

4.2.2 Subject to annual adjustment based on the formula described in section 4.2.3, the Northwest Territories’ estimated projected share of the amounts described in section 4.2.1 will be as follows.

Table 1: Northwest Territories’ estimated projected share of financial provisions by fiscal year
Fiscal year Estimated amount to be paid to the Northwest Territories* (subject to annual adjustment)
2021 to 2022 $6,391,977
2022 to 2023 $8,765,598
2023 to 2024 $10,326,177
2024 to 2025 $11,853,306
2025 to 2026 $13,810,702

* The notional allocations for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 use Statistics Canada’s population estimates as at July 1, 2020. Notional allocations for fiscal year 2022 to 2023 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 are calculated based on Statistics Canada’s longer-term population growth models using the Medium Growth M1 Population Growth Scenario from the previous fiscal year.

4.2.3 The final amount to be paid to the Northwest Territories for the fiscal year will be calculated using the formula F x K/L plus $2 million, where:

  • F is the annual total funding amount transferred to provinces and territories for the fiscal year minus the base funding from all provinces and territories
  • K is the total population of children aged 0 to 12 in the Northwest Territories on July 1 of that fiscal year, as determined using population estimates from Statistics Canada
  • L is the total population of children aged 0 to 12 on July 1 of that fiscal year, as determined using population estimates from Statistics Canada

4.2.4 For the purposes of the formula in section 4.2.3, the population of children aged 0 to 12 for the Northwest Territories for each fiscal year and the total population of children aged 0 to 12 in all provinces and territories for that fiscal year are the respective populations as determined on the basis of the preliminary estimates of the respective populations on July 1 of that fiscal year. These estimates are released by Statistics Canada in September of each fiscal year.

4.3 In this Agreement, “fiscal year” means the period commencing on April 1 of any calendar year and terminating on March 31 of the immediately following calendar year.

4.4 Payment

4.4.1 Subject to Parliamentary approval of appropriations, Canada’s contribution will be paid in approximately equal semi-annual installments as follows:

  • in fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the first installment will be paid within 30 days after the signatures from both parties are affixed to the Agreement. The second installment will be paid within 30 days after the first installment has been paid
  • beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the first installment will be paid on or about June 15 of each fiscal year. the second installment will be paid on or about November 15 of each fiscal year once conditions in section 5.2 are satisfied

4.4.2 The amount of the first installment will be an amount equal to 50% of the total amount of Canada’s maximum contribution to the Northwest Territories for the fiscal year, which will be calculated using Statistics Canada 0 to 12 population estimates from the previous year.

4.4.3 The amount of the second installment will be an amount equal to the balance of Canada’s contribution to the Northwest Territories for the fiscal year based on the actual amount of the contribution determined under sections 4.2.3 and 4.2.4 for the fiscal year.

4.4.4 Canada will notify the Northwest Territories at the beginning of the fiscal year of their notional amount. The actual amount will be based on the Statistics Canada preliminary children (0 to 12) population estimates on July 1 of the preceding fiscal year.

4.4.5 In fiscal year 2023 to 2024, Canada shall withhold payment of its first installment if Canada has not received from the Northwest Territories its planned action plan for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026, in accordance with requirements outlined in section 5.1.

4.4.6 Starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Canada shall withhold payment of its first installment for a fiscal year if Canada has not received from the Northwest Territories all information requested under section 4.4.8 for the payment of its second installment from the previous fiscal year.

4.4.7 Starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Canada may withhold amounts payable in respect of fiscal year if the Northwest Territories is unable to meet the objectives of the Agreement, in accordance with section 2.

4.4.8 Starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Canada shall withhold payment of its second installment for that fiscal year until the Northwest Territories provides an annual progress report outlining data and results achieved from the previous fiscal year in accordance with section 5.2.2 a) and its annual audited financial statement of the previous fiscal year in accordance with section 5.2.2 c).

4.4.9 The sum of both semi-annual installments constitutes a final payment and is not subject to any further adjustment once the second installment of that fiscal year has been paid, unless there is a debt due to Canada, which requires repayment in accordance with section 4.7.

4.4.10 Payment of Canada’s funding for each fiscal year of this Agreement is subject to an annual appropriation by the Parliament of Canada for this purpose. Likewise, use of the funding by the Northwest Territories is subject to an annual appropriation by the Northwest Territories’ Legislature.

4.5 Maximum annual contribution in respect of administration costs

4.5.1 Canada’s contribution in respect of the Northwest Territories’ administration costs referred to in section 2.2.3 shall not exceed:

  • in the fiscal years covered under this Agreement an amount up to 10% of the maximum amount payable for those fiscal years

4.6 Carry forward

4.6.1 In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, at the request of the Northwest Territories, and subject to approval of Canada’s Treasury Board, the Northwest Territories may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from the Northwest Territories’ annual contribution payable under section 4.2, up to a maximum of 85% of the contribution payable. Any unexpended funds in excess of 85% of the contribution payable represents an overpayment subject to section 4.7.

4.6.2 In fiscal year 2022 to 2023, at the request of the Northwest Territories, and subject to approval of Canada’s Treasury Board, the Northwest Territories may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from the Northwest Territories’s annual contribution payable under section 4.2, up to a maximum of 85% of the contribution payable. Any unexpended funds in excess of 85% of the contribution payable represents an overpayment subject to section 4.7.

4.6.3 Starting in fiscal year 2023 to 2024, at the request of the Northwest Territories, and subject to approval of Canada’s Treasury Board, the Northwest Territories may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from the Northwest Territories annual contribution payable under section 4.2, up to a maximum of 10% of the contribution payable. Any unexpended funds in excess of 10% of the contribution payable represents an overpayment subject to section 4.7.

4.6.4 The Northwest Territories may only use the amount carried forward to the following fiscal year for expenditures on eligible areas of investment made under section 2.2 incurred that fiscal year.

4.6.5 For greater certainty, any amount carried forward under sections 4.6.1 to 4.6.3 is supplementary to the maximum amount payable to the Northwest Territories under section 4.2 of this Agreement during the fiscal year in which the funding is carried forward.

4.6.6 All amounts carried forward to the next fiscal year, pursuant to sections 4.6.1 to 4.6.3 must be spent by the end of that fiscal year. The Northwest Territories is not entitled to retain any such carried forward amounts that remain unexpended after the end of that fiscal year, nor is it entitled to retain any balance of Canada’s contribution payable pursuant to section 4.2 that remains unexpended at the end of that fiscal year and is not carried forward in accordance with sections 4.6.1 to 4.6.3. Such amounts are considered debts due to Canada and shall be repaid in accordance with section 4.7.

4.7 Repayment of overpayment

4.7.1 In the event payments made to the Northwest Territories exceed the amount to which the Northwest Territories is entitled under the Agreement and/or unexpended funding is in excess of the carry forward allowance, the amount of the excess is a debt due to Canada and shall be repaid to Canada upon receipt of notice to do so and within the period specified in the notice.

4.7.2 Canada shall, in addition to any other remedies available, have the right to recover the debt by deducting or setting-off the amount of the debt from any future contribution payable to the Northwest Territories under this Agreement.

4.8 Use of funds

4.8.1 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that funds provided under this Agreement will only be used by the Northwest Territories in accordance with the areas for investment outlined in section 2.2 of this Agreement.

4.8.2 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that, within each fiscal year of the period of this Agreement, the Northwest Territories may move funding between the individual programming categories outlined in its action plan in Annex 2 to ensure the maximum use of funding. The Northwest Territories agrees to notify Canada in writing of any such change in funding allocation, including the rationale for the change. The change will be implemented upon agreement between Canada and the Northwest Territories.

4.8.3 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree that funds provided under this Agreement will be used to ensure improvements in ELCC as outlined in section 2.1.1 and will not displace existing territorial or municipal spending in place on or before March 31, 2021.

5.0 Accountability

5.1 Action plan

5.1.1 The Northwest Territories has completed and shared its action plan for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and fiscal year 2022 to 2023 (Annex 2). Subsequently, the Northwest Territories will provide an action plan for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 by the beginning of fiscal year 2023 to 2024. The Northwest Territories will publicly release their action plan which:

  1. outlines an implementation plan towards achieving objectives set out in section 1, including priority areas for investment, and targets by indicator, within the Framework’s parameters
  2. identifies specific targets for each indicator that will be reported on annually for tracking progress in relation to the objectives set out under section 2.1.1, and as outlined in its action plan in Annex 2 which may include:
    1. total number of ELCC spaces available during the fiscal year, broken down by age groups of child and type of setting (for example, for profit/not-for-profit/public regulated child care centres, regulated family child care homes, etc.)
    2. the number of net new spaces created during the fiscal year, broken down by age groups of child and type of setting (for example, for profit/not-for-profit/public regulated child care centres, regulated family child care homes, etc.)
    3. total number of inclusive (as defined in section 2.1.1) spaces created or converted, broken down by age group of child and type of setting
    4. average daily parental out-of-pocket fee for regulated child care spaces at the end of each fiscal year, including at the beginning of fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and at the end of 2022
    5. number of children under age 6 and 6 to 12 years receiving fee subsidies, broken down by families receiving partial and full subsidies
    6. number and proportion of children under age 6 and 6 to 12 years in flexible regulated ELCC arrangements and number and proportion of centers or providers that provide flexible arrangements (that is, non-traditional arrangements such as flexible or irregular hours, weekend and emergency services; and geographic distribution of spaces)
    7. number of children under age 6 and 6 to 12 years with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports that are in regulated ELCC space
    8. number or proportion of child care service providers who provide services that are adapted to the needs of children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports
    9. number of Indigenous children under age 6 years in regulated ELCC spaces, distinction-based (First Nations, Inuit, Metis) where possible
    10. number of racialized children, including Black children under age 6 in regulated ELCC spaces
    11. number and percentage of staff working in regulated child care programs in the Northwest Territories who fully meet the Northwest Territories’ certification/educational requirements
    12. annual public expenditure on training and professional development of the early childhood workforce
    13. wages of the early childhood workforce according to the categories of certification, including any wage enhancements, top-ups and/or supplements
  3. identifies additional jurisdiction-specific indicators for tracking progress in relation to the objectives of the Agreement
  4. describes how the Northwest Territories plans to address the ELCC needs of its children and families more in need, as described in section 2.2.5
    1. If available, number and proportion of children under age 6 and 6 to 12 years from families more in need that are in regulated ELCC spaces
  5. outline any additional available information to be reported annually that would be useful to assess progress, including:
    1. information about waiting lists to access regulated ELCC spaces
    2. total child care subsidies provided by parents’ income level
    3. average child-to-staff ratio among licensed child care service providers
    4. total annual investment in ELCC
  6. a description of engagement and/or consultation processes referred to in section 5.1.2, the type of groups consulted and annual priorities related to stakeholder feedback

5.1.2 The Northwest Territories will consult with parents, child care providers, experts, Indigenous governments and communities, official language minority communities and other interested parties as an important step in developing and revising its action plan. The Northwest Territories will outline the results of consultations in its action plan as well as through its annual reporting.

5.1.3 By the beginning of fiscal year 2023 to 2024, the Northwest Territories commits to share with Canada its fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 action plan. The action plan shall include the elements described in section 5.1 (i) a) to f). Once the parties agree that the annual action plan is final, the action plan may be published by 1 or both of the parties and Canada will be able to provide the Northwest Territories with its first payment for the fiscal year 2023 to 2024 according to section 4.4.

5.2 Reporting

5.2.1 In the first fiscal year, the Northwest Territories agrees to provide baseline data on indicators set out in their action plan as soon as possible after the parties sign this Agreement.

5.2.2 Starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, by no later than October 1st of each fiscal year during the period of this Agreement, the Northwest Territories agrees to:

  1. provide to Canada an annual report in the format and manner decided jointly by Canada and the Northwest Territories. The report shall show separately the results attributable to the funding provided by Canada under this Agreement and shall include:
    1. description of the activities, expenditures and results of the Agreement as set out in Annex 2
    2. results achieved in working towards the vision for Canada-wide ELCC set out in this Agreement, including average child care fees and progress toward the average 50% reduction in fees by the end of 2022 and reaching an average fee of $10 per day by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
    3. results achieved according to the indicators and targets referred to in Annex 2
    4. the impact on families more in need, as described in section 2.2.5, including progress toward specific Northwest Territories targets as described in Annex 2, such as the numbers of inclusive spaces supported by federal funding and by category
    5. additional available information to be reported annually that would be useful to assess progress
    6. description of any relevant consultation processes, the type of groups consulted and annual priorities related to stakeholder feedback referred to in Annex 2
    7. any additional results of an annual child care census as per section 5.2.2 f) and any evaluation activities undertaken in the fiscal year, as available
  2. continue to provide to Canada additional data required for the publication of the annual National Progress Report
  3. provide to Canada an audited financial statement of revenues received from Canada under this Agreement during each fiscal year, indicating:
    1. the revenue section of the statement shall show the amount received from Canada under this Agreement during the fiscal year
    2. the total amount of funding used for ELCC programs and services under section 2.2
    3. the administration costs incurred by the Northwest Territories in developing and administering ELCC programs under section 2.2.3
    4. if applicable, the amount of any amount carried forward by the Northwest Territories under section 4.6
    5. if applicable, the amount of any surplus funds that are to be repaid to Canada under section 4.7

    The financial statement shall be prepared in accordance with Canadian Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and the audit shall be performed by the the Northwest Territories Auditor General or his/her delegate, or by an independent public accounting firm registered under the laws of the Northwest Territories and shall be conducted in accordance with Canadian Generally Accepted Auditing Standards.

  4. provide financial and administrative information, as required, to demonstrate progress in meeting the requirements in this Agreement
  5. Canada and the Northwest Territories recognize the importance of reporting to the public on results achieved under this Agreement. Within 365 days of the end of each fiscal year during the period of this Agreement, the Northwest Territories agrees to report to the people of the Northwest Territories and Canada on the results and expenditures of ELCC programs and services. The report shall show separately the results attributable to the funding provided by Canada under this Agreement and be consistent with the annual report outlined under section 5.2.2 a)
  6. to inform reporting on results related to the Northwest Territories action plan, the Northwest Territories agrees to undertake, and share results with Canada from, an annual census of child care providers and other participants in the sector in the Northwest Territories to collect information, including: number of children enrolled, capacity (number of spaces), number of Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), ECE wages and qualifications, fee charged to parents, subsidies, number of First Nations, Inuit or Metis child care spaces supported, etc. Costs of undertaking such a census would be eligible expenses under this Agreement, to the maximum set out in section 4.5.1

5.2.3 Canada, with prior notice to the Northwest Territories, may incorporate all or any part or parts of the annual report described under section 5.2.2 a) into any public report that Canada may prepare for its own purposes, including any reports to the Parliament of Canada or reports that may be made public.

5.3 Audit

5.3.1 The Northwest Territories will ensure that expenditure information presented in the annual report is, in accordance with the Northwest Territories’ standard accounting practices, complete and accurate.

5.4 Evaluation

5.4.1 As per established policies and processes with respect to program effectiveness, the Northwest Territories will evaluate programs and services receiving funds provided under this Agreement and make public the results of any such evaluations.

5.4.2 The Northwest Territories may be asked to participate in the evaluation by Canada of the initiatives under this Agreement and agrees to provide information as requested by Canada during and following the Agreement in order for Canada to evaluate relevant initiatives under this Agreement. Evaluation results will be made available to the public.

6.0 Long-term collaboration

6.1 Understanding that building a new social program is complex, and that both governments are committed to achieving the objectives of the Canada-wide system outlined in section 2, Canada and the Northwest Territories will create an officials-level Implementation Committee that will monitor progress towards this goal and include engagement with stakeholders, as appropriate. The Northwest Territories will provide data to support the work of the Implementation Committee.

6.2 Canada and the Northwest Territories, through the Implementation Committee and/or Designated Officials, agree to meet at least twice annually, timed to coincide with the planning and reporting cycles, or as agreed to by the Parties to discuss and exchange on issues related to this Agreement, including:

  1. administration and management of the Agreement, including providing a forum for the exchange of information on annual planning priorities and reporting
  2. exchanging information on local challenges and priorities and the results of engagement with relevant stakeholders, including official language minority communities
  3. providing a forum to exchange information on best practices and have discussions related to the implementation of the Agreement, for example, status of data collection, results, and the planning of expenditures
  4. improving data collection and dissemination on key ELCC information, including culturally oriented ELCC information for Indigenous children, Black and other racialized children, newcomer children, and other groups of children that may require additional consideration for accessing programs and services
  5. review and provide direction to resolve any issues arising from the implementation and management of this Agreement, and from the evaluation of territorial programs supported under this Agreement
  6. monitor progress towards the shared goal of an average of $10 per day child care, through engagement with Indigenous Governments and stakeholders
  7. in December 2022, report to the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories on progress towards Canada and the Northwest Territories’ shared goals to date and for the remaining term of the Agreement

6.3 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree to share and release data as available, and share knowledge, research and information on effective and innovative practices in ELCC, to further support the development of and reporting on quality and outcomes. Canada and the Northwest Territories agree to work together, and with stakeholders, towards the development of additional measures and indicators that could be included in bilateral agreements in the future that could reinforce the vision for Canada-wide ELCC.

7.0 Communications

7.1 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree on the importance of communicating with citizens about the objectives of this Agreement in an open, transparent, effective and proactive manner through appropriate public information activities.

7.2 Canada and the Northwest Territories recognize the importance of ensuring that the public is informed of Canada’s financial contributions to the Northwest Territories’ ELCC programs and services, funded under this Agreement.

7.3 The Northwest Territories agrees to acknowledge Canada’s contribution by including federal identification in all public communications and marketing products, promotional material and advertising.

7.4 Canada reserves the right to conduct public communications, announcements, events, outreach and promotional activities about the Framework and bilateral agreements. Canada agrees to give the Northwest Territories 10 days advance notice of public communications related to the Framework, bilateral agreements, and results of the investments of this Agreement.

7.5 The Northwest Territories reserves the right to conduct public communications, announcements, events, outreach and promotional activities about the Framework and bilateral agreements. The Northwest Territories agrees to give Canada 10 days advance notice and advance copies of public communications related to the Framework, bilateral agreements, and results of the investments of this Agreement.

7.6 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree to participate in a joint announcement upon signing of this Agreement.

7.7 Canada and the Northwest Territories agree to work together to identify opportunities for joint announcements relating to programs funded under this Agreement.

7.8 The Northwest Territories will make best efforts to require service providers, funded under this Agreement to display federal identification to recognize that the programs and services provided receive Canada’s financial assistance.

7.9 The Northwest Territories agrees that promotional communications to all groups receiving funding through this Agreement (for example, child care centres, regulated family child care homes, early learning centres, preschools and nursery schools, before-and after-school programming, businesses, associations, unions, training institutions, universities, colleges, and career colleges) will include federal identification and recognize Canada’s financial assistance.

7.10 Canada will provide a mutually agreed upon standard letter to the Northwest Territories for use in notifying all recipients of funding from this Agreement, to include federal and the Northwest Territories identification and recognize Canada’s financial assistance. Parties may collectively agree on an alternate version that appropriately identifies and recognizes both Parties.

8.0 Dispute resolution

8.1 Canada and the Northwest Territories are committed to working together and avoiding disputes through government-to-government information exchange, advance notice, early consultation, and discussion, clarification, and resolution of issues, as they arise.

8.2 If at any time either Canada or the Northwest Territories is of the opinion that the other Party has failed to comply with any of its obligations or undertakings under this Agreement or is in breach of any term or condition of the Agreement, Canada or the Northwest Territories, as the case may be, may notify the other party in writing of the failure or breach. Upon such notice, Canada and the Northwest Territories will endeavour to resolve the issue in dispute bilaterally through their Designated Officials.

8.3 If a dispute cannot be resolved by Designated Officials, then the dispute will be referred to the Deputy Ministers most responsible for ELCC, and if it cannot be resolved by them, then the federal Minister and the Northwest Territories Minister shall endeavour to resolve the dispute.

8.4 If the Northwest Territories has failed to comply with its obligations or undertakings and where the Northwest Territories and federal Ministers are unable to resolve related disputes, a termination of the Agreement may be pursued in accordance with section 10.

9.0 Amendments to the Agreement

9.1 This Agreement, including all attached annexes, except Annex 1, may be amended at any time by mutual consent of the parties. To be valid, any amendments shall be in writing and signed by the parties.

9.2 Waiver

9.2.1 Failure by any Party to exercise any of its rights, powers, or remedies under this Agreement or its delay to do so does not constitute a waiver of those rights, powers, or remedies. Any waiver by either party of any of its rights, powers, or remedies under this Agreement must be in writing; and, such a waiver does not constitute a continuing waiver unless it is so explicitly stated.

10.0 Termination

10.1 Canada may terminate this Agreement at any time if the terms of this Agreement are breached by the Northwest Territories by giving at least 6 months written notice of Canada’s intention to terminate the Agreement. The Northwest Territories may terminate this Agreement at any time if the terms of this Agreement are breached by Canada by giving at least 6 months written notice of the Northwest Territories’ intention to terminate the Agreement.

10.2 As of the effective date of termination of this Agreement under section 10.1, Canada shall have no obligation to make any further payments to the Northwest Territories after the date of effective termination.

11.0 Notice

11.1 Any notice, information or document provided under this Agreement will be effectively delivered or sent by letter, postage or other charges prepaid. Any notice that is delivered will have been received in delivery; and, except in periods of postal disruption, any notice mailed will be deemed to have been received 8 calendar days after being mailed.

The address for notice or communication to Canada shall be:

Federal Secretariat on ELCC
140 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau QC  K1A 0J9
NC-SSP-ELCC-GD@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

The address for notice or communication to the Northwest Territories shall be:

Government of Northwest Territories
Education, Culture and Employment
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife NWT X1A 2L9
shelley_kapraelian@gov.nt.ca

12.0 General

12.1 This Agreement, including Annexes 1 and 2 comprise the entire Agreement entered into by the Parties with respect to the subject matter hereof.

12.2 This Agreement does not displace federal investments in ELCC, based on the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework, Annex 1, concluded on June 12, 2017.

12.3 This Agreement shall be interpreted according to the laws of Canada and the Northwest Territories.

12.4 No member of the House of Commons or of the Senate of Canada or of the Legislature of the Northwest Territories shall be admitted to any share or part of this Agreement, or to any benefit arising therefrom.

12.5 If for any reason a provision of this Agreement that is not a fundamental term is found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be or to have become invalid or unenforceable, in whole or in part, it will be deemed to be severable and will be deleted from this Agreement, but all the other provisions of this Agreement will continue to be valid and enforceable.

12.6 This Agreement is drafted in English at the request of the parties.

Signed on behalf of Canada by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development at Ottawa this 14th day of December, 2021.

[Signed by] The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Signed on behalf of the Northwest Territories by the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment at Yellowknife this 14th day of December, 2021.

[Signed by] The Honourable R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Annex 1: Multilateral Early Learning And Child Care Framework

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers most responsible for early learning and child care (ELCC) agree on the importance of supporting parents, families and communities in their efforts to ensure the best possible future for their children. For more details, please consult the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

Annex 2: The Northwest Territories’ Canada-wide fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023 action plan

In this section

Federal vision

The Federal Government’s Budget 2021 provides new investments to build a high-quality, affordable, flexible, and inclusive early learning and child care system across Canada. These investments total up to $30 billion over the next 5 years, and combined with previous investments announced since 2015, $9.2 billion every year thereafter, permanently. Of that amount, $27.2 billion over 5 years will support direct transfers to provinces and territories.

The Government of Canada will work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to implement key components of the Canada-wide system, including:

  • 50% reduction in average child care fees for regulated early learning and child care by the end of 2022 and reaching an average of $10 a day by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 for all regulated child care spaces
  • creating more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, primarily through not-for-profit and public child care providers
  • addressing barriers to provide inclusive and flexible child care
  • valuing the early childhood workforce and providing them with training and development opportunities

The Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) has invested in development of the early learning and child care system in the Northwest Territories (NWT) with priorities identified in the 19th Legislative Assembly’s Mandate including universal child care. The GNWT will collaborate with the Government of Canada to help achieve this shared vision of a Canada-wide system that recognizes the territory’s particular context for early learning and child care.

Existing early learning and child care system in the Northwest Territories

The early years, from birth to age 5, are among the most critical for a child’s development. These early years provide an essential opportunity to nurture and support the healthy, social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of young children. Research tells us that positive experiences in early childhood directly impact children’s chances to lead healthy, successful, and balanced lives. This entails a critical responsibility for the GNWT to take action and support families and children in their early years. There is a collective benefit in investing and supporting young children and their families. Supports provided now will benefit future generations in the NWT, as these young children will grow to become healthy, productive and contributing residents that are able to share their skills, talents and services.

From small, fly-in communities, to larger regional centers, each of the 33 vibrant communities within the NWT has vastly differing early learning and child care needs. Home to 11 official languages, including Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tlicho, the people of the NWT represent multiple cultural belief systems and values. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, it is important to develop a plan that is both flexible to meet individual community needs and grounded by a common vision of supporting families with children from birth to 5 years of age to develop high quality early learning and child care that is accessible, affordable, and inclusive for all children and families in the NWT.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (DECE) provides funding and support for Indigenous governments, non-profit organizations, and individuals to provide a variety of early learning and child care programming that best meets their community’s unique situation. For some communities, this means full-time licensed early learning and child care programs that are centre-based or family day homes; for others, the best way to support families with young children may be a part-time drop-in program offered several times per week. The Canada-wide vision recognizes the unique needs of communities and offers flexible options to provide affordable, accessible, inclusive, high-quality early learning and child care.

In addition to the territorial investment, federal funding provided through the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Agreement (Agreement) will support the development of a community-based system of quality, licensed early learning and child care in the NWT. The goal is for all families to have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live in the territory.

It will take time and coordinated effort between the Government of Canada, the GNWT, Indigenous Governments, licensed early learning and child care programs, early childhood educators, post-secondary institutions, and other community partners to transform the early learning and child care system in the NWT. This is an opportunity to work together to make meaningful change for young children and families throughout the territory.

NWT population and demographics

According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the total population of the NWT in 2021 is approximately 45,504, with approximately 50% identifying as Indigenous. The population of Yellowknife in 2020 represented 47% of the entire NWT population, with 21,372 residents. This is in stark comparison to the other regional centers and small communities across the territory, with the smallest community, Kakisa, having a population of 36 people.

In 2021, the NWT was home to approximately 3,489 children aged 5 years and younger. Additionally, the NWT has a higher birth rate than the rest of Canada. In 2015, the NWT birth rate was 16.3 per 1,000 people, compared to the Canadian average of 11.3 births per 1000 people.

What the data tells us

The NWT is comprised of 33 communities located within 5 regions (North Slave, South Slave, Sahtu, Dehcho and Beaufort Delta). There are the 5 regional centers of Inuvik, Fort Smith, Hay River, Norman Wells and Fort Simpson and the remaining smaller communities. In comparison to other provinces and territories, most of the communities in the NWT would be considered small.

Relative to other territories and provinces, children and families in the NWT are in greater need of equitable access to high quality early learning and child care when compared to other jurisdictional and national averages. Statistics show that NWT children are more likely to be exposed to negative experiences and circumstances that may impact their development. For example, the rate of women going to shelters is approximately 5 times higher than the national average. According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, there were 2,575 police reported violent crimes committed by an intimate partner per 1,000,000 people in the NWT, compared to 309 per 1,000,000 people in Canada.

The early development instrument (EDI) provides information about children’s developmental health at school entry. Results are presented as ‘on track’ when children are considered ready for the learning opportunities available in Grade 1, ‘vulnerable’ when having challenges in 1 or more of the 5 areas of development, and ‘in flux’ when they are neither vulnerable in any area nor on track in all areas. EDI data shows that in the fiscal year 2020 to 2021 school year, 39% of children in kindergarten were on track, 23% were in flux and 38% were vulnerable. EDI results also suggest that NWT children in small communities have a lower rate of on track and higher rate of vulnerability than regional centers and Yellowknife.

With the territorial implementation of junior kindergarten (JK) in fiscal year 2017 to 2018, all 4-year-olds have access to free early learning, DECE’s focus has shifted towards supporting access for children from birth to age 3, along with addressing the needs for out-of-school care for children from 3.8 years to 11 years of age. Despite improved access in some communities, there are currently 13 communities in the NWT without access to any licensed early learning and child care programs for children from birth to age 3.

Even with access to licensed early learning and child care programs, a number of communities experience low attendance rates for their licensed programs. Although many of these programs do not charge child care fees, there is a need to explore why families are not accessing the programs. In some instances, this may be related to cultural norms and a preference for other forms of child care beyond licensed programming, including informal care provided by family members. In other cases, where the labour market and employment opportunities may be limited, families may not see the need for child care. Promotion of the benefits of early learning opportunities, both within licensed early learning and child care programs and other settings, is important so that young children and their families take advantage of varied early learning opportunities within their community, where available.

In contrast, some communities, such as Yellowknife, are in a situation where the population of children from birth to 3 years old significantly exceeds the licensed child care spaces available, thus, creating a high demand for licensed programs. While DECE does not systematically track waitlists, DECE is aware of a high demand for infant and out-of-school spaces in some communities. DECE’s recent engagement on development of a 2030 ELCC Strategy (Strategy) informed the department’s knowledge of needs related to access specific to communities and regions. Appropriate infrastructure is a significant barrier in meeting community needs in many of these instances.

Office of the Auditor General

Between April 2018 and December 2019, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) completed a Performance Audit of both DECE’s JK to Grade 12 public education system and the NWT’s early learning and child care sector.

The OAG provided specific recommendations to enhance the quality of early learning and child care programs, including:

  • providing guidance that clearly sets out how licensed programs can develop programming that meets the Child Day Care Standards Regulations’ education requirements
  • tracking compliance with programming requirements and the training needs of center-based operators and early childhood educators and delivery of required training, as appropriate
  • establishing a consistent method of assessing licensed early learning and child care programs who lack formal qualifications to ensure they understand developmentally appropriate child care practices and can apply that understanding to daycare programming

Federal funding provided through this Canada-wide ELCC Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023) will be used to support the recommendations of the OAG given its alignment with the development of a territorial system that offers accessible and affordable quality early learning and child care for young children and families.

The feasibility study on universal affordable day care in the NWT

In 2015, the Feasibility Study on Universal Affordable Day Care in the NWT (Feasibility Study) was completed by Better Child Care Education in partnership with the University of Toronto. This study examined:

  • the benefits of early education and care
  • the current status of child care in the NWT
  • potential costs and benefits of universal child care in the NWT
  • potential barriers to achieving universal child care in the NWT

The economic analysis of the available information found that universal affordable child care in the NWT could cost between $20 million (reflecting Québec’s level of spending) and $45 million (reflecting Sweden’s spending model) annually. This was in addition to DECE’s current total investment in early childhood of $8.9 million at that time.Footnote 1 It also predicted that there could be gains in employment, as caregivers are able to return to the workforce, and corresponding increases in tax revenue.

Engagement

While evidence and research play a key role in shaping the GNWT’s actions, so too does the knowledge and insight of Indigenous Governments and early childhood education stakeholders. The GNWT has engaged in public discussions on early childhood development, learning, and care through roundtable discussions, on-line surveys, webinars, home visits, regional meetings, focus groups, and sharing circles where families, community members, Elders, early childhood professionals and other stakeholders have provided their thoughts and ideas for the future of childhood development in the NWT. Within the NWT context, stakeholders are always representative and include Indigenous and French participants.

Engagement with a wide range of people with an interest in early childhood development called upon the GNWT to create an integrated, sustainable, and affordable system of supports for young children and their families. That system needs to be culturally sensitive and relevant, and delivered by a professional workforce of highly skilled and well-compensated early childhood staff. Finally, stakeholders advised that early childhood programs should focus particularly on meeting children’s emotional and social needs.

In 2013, the Departments of Health and Social Services (HSS) and DECE released a joint 10-year Framework for Early Childhood Development: Right from the Start (RFTS Framework). It was informed by comprehensive community engagement that included families, Elders, early childhood experts and northern leaders. While several actions were completed through implementation of theRFTS Framework, there continue to be areas identified within that foundational document that can inform future work to develop the early learning and child care sector in the NWT.

Most recently, DECE met with Indigenous Governments and held engagement sessions with licensed early learning and child care program operators and early childhood educators throughout the NWT to discuss a series of questions about the development of the Strategy. The 10-year Strategy will outline areas of focused investment and support for the advancement of the GNWT’s 19th Legislative Assembly’s Mandate to advance universal child care through increased affordability and availability in the NWT. The results of these discussions with Indigenous Governments and stakeholders have informed the development of this action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023) and the Strategy.

While the areas of focus for early learning and child care in the NWT are currently reflected within 2 agreements and action plans, DECE intends to work with Canada to combine these into 1 cohesive agreement and action plan going forward. These documents and associated funding will support implementation of the priorities set out in the 10-year Strategy.

Vision for future directions

An early learning and child care system that recognizes the needs of all children in the NWT has been supported through investments by the GNWT and Canada, specifically:

  • the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework (Framework) set the foundation for governments to work toward a shared long-term vision where all children can experience the enriching environment of quality early learning and child care that supports children’s development to reach their full potential. The Framework identifies areas of focus to increase quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility and inclusivity in early learning and child care, with consideration for those more in need. It also recognizes diversity and promotes early learning and child care systems that are respectful of language and culture, including the unique needs of Indigenous peoples and French minority communities
  • the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025 Canada-NWT bilateral extension Agreement and corresponding action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022) identifies investments to support improved access and quality of the NWT’s licensed early learning and care system. These build on the improvements made and lessons learned since the initial Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2017 to 2018 to fiscal year 2019 to 2020)
  • the Workforce Development funding (fiscal year 2021 to 2022) provided through the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025 Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement supports early childhood educators’ recruitment and retention through professional learning initiatives, cultural resource development, ensuring safe and healthy environment, and the development of post-secondary learning opportunities within the territory
  • this new fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 Canada-NWT Canada-wide ELCC Agreement and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023) identifies actions related to affordability, accessibility with prioritization of not-for-profit care, inclusion, and quality, as well as increased reporting to inform the NWT and national systems for early learning and child care

The GNWT recognizes the need for flexibility in responding to the evolving needs of existing early learning and child care programs and to supporting the establishment of new licensed programs.

The GNWT’s vision for early learning and child care is based on a foundational belief that high quality early learning and child care should be available for all NWT families who want or need it. This aligns with the Canada-wide initiative to promote transformative change within the early childhood sector. Through the federal funding provided within both agreements, and with the shared focus on development of the early learning and child care system within the NWT and nationally, this is an opportunity to reimagine what early learning and child care looks like in the territory and to incorporate innovative ideas that best support the system now and going forward. It will take time to improve the outcomes for young children and will require coordination and planning within the GNWT and with Indigenous Governments and other partners.

Along with our partners, Canada and the GNWT will work together to support transformational change and development of a system that promotes a community driven, child and family-centered, culturally relevant system that provides high quality programs and services for all young children and their families across the NWT. This Agreement marks a significant milestone in the early learning and child care sector.

Areas of focus include:

  • affordability:
    • 50% reduction in average child care fees for licensed early learning and child care programs by December 2022
    • an average of $10 per day per child by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 for all licensed early learning and child care spaces
  • access:
    • from fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the creation of 75 more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, through non-profit, publically provided/public programming and family day homes to meet the needs of children and families, which includes 70 spaces to be created in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 through the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement
    • in fiscal year 2023 to 2024, the creation of 75 more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, through non-profit, publically provided or public programming and family day homes, to meet the needs of children and families
    • in fiscal year 2024 to 2025, the creation of 75 more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, through non-profit, publically provided or public programming and family day homes, to meet the needs of children and families
    • in fiscal year 2025 to 2026, the creation of 75 more high-quality, affordable regulated child care spaces, through non-profit, publically provided or public programming and family day homes, to meet the needs of children and families
    • by fiscal year 2025 to 2026, the creation of a total of 300 full-time equivalent regulated not-for-profit spaces for children from birth to age 5 through publically provided/public programming and family day homes
  • inclusion:
    • by fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the GNWT will complete analysis to examine how children from vulnerable or equity seeking families, including those with specific developmental needs, are currently included in early learning opportunities across the territory to identify strengths and barriers that exist within the early childhood sector
    • by fiscal year 2025 to 2026, the NWT commits to develop and fund a plan to promote integrated services that will enable access to early learning for children from vulnerable or equity seeking families. This includes children with disabilities and those needing enhanced or individual supports, Indigenous children, children living in low-income homes, Black and other racialized children, children of newcomers to Canada, and children from official language minority communities that is representative of the population of the NWT
    • by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026, vulnerable children and children from diverse populations will have access to early learning and child care programs
  • quality:
    • in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, provide a retention incentive to early childhood educators working in licensed centre-based programs with up to 312 educators benefitting
    • by fiscal year 2022 to 2023, establish a wage grid which will inform funding changes planned for implementation in fiscal year 2024 to 2025
    • by fiscal year 2025 to 2026, implement the wage grid with operational funding provided to licensed centre-based programs to support early childhood educators working in those programs
  • increased reporting:

    To inform ongoing improvements to the ELCC system in the NWT and across Canada, substantial data collection and reporting are necessary. As part of the Canada-NWT Canada-wide ELCC Agreement, increased data collection and reporting of financial and administrative requirements will occur within the territory. One of the primary methods of gathering data will be through an annual census of child care providers. The results of the census will be shared with the federal government and the data gathered from the census will also inform program and policy development within the ELCC sector in NWT.

    Strengthening human capacity within the department is also a priority for the GNWT as part of the Canada-NWT Canada-wide ELCC Agreement. Additional positions will be created to support the increased need for reporting and data collection. Further, positions will be created to support the increased need for financial planning, and policy and program development that will occur as the Canada-wide ELCC system within the NWT is implemented.

    • by March 31, 2022, to support the enhancement of human resources capacity, NWT will have outlined specific plans to increase its capacity within DECE:
      • identification of new positions to support the creation of licensed spaces and quality program development and implementation, including professional learning opportunities
      • new positions to support financial planning and reporting
      • identification of new positions to support data collection, monitoring and evaluation of the system
    • beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 and continuing to fiscal year 2025 to 2026, DECE will begin the human resources expansion
    • by March 31, 2025, the GNWT will have a plan in place to procure or establish an information technology data framework to capture early learning and child care data
    • by March 31, 2023, NWT will have developed an annual census or survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector
    • by March 31, 2024, NWT will have begun implementation of an annual census/survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector
    • by March 31, 2025, NWT will have consistent licensed early learning and child care baseline data, including:
      • number of children enrolled
      • capacity (number of spaces)
      • number of early childhood educators
      • early childhood educators’ wages and qualifications
      • fees charged to families
      • licensed program funding
      • number of First Nations, Inuit or Metis child care spaces supported
      • number of children from birth to age 5 who present with vulnerabilities and/or with specific developmental needs that are in licensed early learning and child care

The Northwest Territories’ approach to a Canada-wide system

The Government of Canada’s Budgets 2016 and 2017 provided $7.5 billion over 11 years to support and create more high-quality, affordable child care across the country, and to strengthen Indigenous early learning and child care. Since fiscal year 2017 to 2018, the Government of Canada has provided funding to provinces and territories totalling $1.6 billion over 4 years to support their unique early learning and child care needs. Over the next 4 years, an additional $2.06 billion in federal funding to support the bilateral ELCC agreements will be provided to provinces and territories. This investment includes no less than $130 million per year beginning in fiscal year 2018 to 2019 for Indigenous early learning and child care, provided directly to Indigenous Governments and organizations through the Indigenous ELCC agreements. This is in addition to $132 million in funding provided annually through Aboriginal Head Start and First Nation and Inuit Child Care programs.

The Indigenous ELCC Framework (2018) represents the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples’ work to co-develop a transformative Indigenous framework that reflects the unique cultures, aspirations, and priorities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children across Canada. These bilateral agreements are between Canada and Indigenous Governments. As with the Multilateral ELCC Framework, the Indigenous ELCC Framework established overarching principles and sets a vision for happy and safe Indigenous children and families, strong cultural identity, and a comprehensive and coordinated system that is anchored in self-determination and centered on children and grounded in culture. It will be important to develop a collaborative plan with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation organizations in the NWT to ensure that Indigenous children living in the territory have access to affordable, high-quality, and culturally appropriate early learning and child care programming.

Since the fiscal year 2017 to 2018 to fiscal year 2019 to 2020 Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement was signed, the NWT has used the federal funding to support investments in early learning and child care in 2 main areas: improving quality and access to early learning and child care in the NWT. Particular consideration has been given for small communities, including those that are currently without any licensed early childhood programs. These areas of investment align with the principles of quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity, as outlined within the Multilateral ELCC Framework. Indigenous children and Francophone communities were also supported through the ELCC bilateral Agreement and action plan.

Investments in the early learning and child care sector are required to increase access and affordability of programs. An understanding of community needs across the territory will inform the GNWT’s investment in the sector to support the creation of sustainable quality programs for children and families. Incremental investments over time, both territorial and federal, are needed to move this work forward and create, expand and supplement supports for early childhood education in the NWT. For fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the GNWT has allocated $9.978 million to support early learning and child care; this does not include the investments for junior kindergarten (JK) and kindergarten (K) within the public education system which provides free early learning programming for 4 and 5 year olds.

The NWT ELCC Funding Programs Review (2021) identified the need to consider alternative methods to subsidizing licensed early learning and child care programs to better support sustainability. DECE has also recently completed engagement toward development of the 2030 ELCC Strategy, which included meetings with Indigenous Governments and discussions with licensed program staff throughout the territory. Consideration for what was heard during the engagement and the recommendations from the review will inform a re-envisioning of supports to licensed programs.

This requires significant time as noted in the action plan, that is, 3 years (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2023 to 2024) prior to implementation of funding changes. As a result, significant carryover is required in the first 3 years of the Agreement.

In addition, a significant increase in capacity is needed to support the planning and implementation of these innovative changes, including the need for additional positions within DECE.

The federal funding, recent ELCC review and engagement for development of the strategy are all opportunities to re-imagine the NWT’s early learning and child care system and to support the GNWT’s mandate to advance universal child care through increased affordability and accessibility of quality early learning and child care. The commitment made through the Canada-wide Agreement and action plan aligns with the areas of focus that the GNWT has identified and which DECE has heard from Indigenous Governments and licensed early learning and child care programs.

Area of focus: affordability

With territorial implementation of the 2-year JK and K program, families of 4- and 5-year-old children in the NWT have an option to access free, play-based JK and K programming within their community school. The 2020 to 2021 school year was the 4th year of JK and K territory-wide implementation, providing free programming for 525 children in junior kindergarten and 602 children in kindergarten. In the 2020 to 2021 school year, 31 schools offered full-day JK and 10 schools offered half-day JK. The JK and K program represents significant progress towards universal child care in the NWT.

There is a wide range of fees charged to families throughout the NWT. Some licensed programs offer free access while others charge fees as high as $1,380 per child each month. High costs can be prohibitive for many families who would otherwise choose to access early learning and child care programming. Of the 33 communities in the NWT, 8 communities offer licensed early learning and child care programs that require child care fees, 18 communities offer licensed early learning and child care programs with no child care fees (due to a combination of investments by Indigenous Governments and territorial funding to offset operating costs and support the creation of programs), and 13 communities currently do not have licensed programs for children from birth to age 3.

The Income Assistance (IA) program can assist individuals with their child care expenses so that they can participate in the labour force, participate in a Productive Choice, or pursue educational and training opportunities in the NWT. For those who are attending post-secondary, there is also student financial assistance (SFA) to offset child care costs for those students with young children.

In considering affordability, it is important to consider overall operating costs which are higher in the North and the increased cost of living for early childhood educators who are typically paid low wages. Any increases to wages, to address recruitment and retention, will need to be considered in offsetting operating costs for licensed early learning and child care programs.

The issue of affordability is interconnected with other areas of advancing universal child care in the NWT. Although an important aspect, developing a system for early learning and child care in the NWT needs to consider affordability within the broader context of both high cost and free programming operated by non-profits, Indigenous Governments, and family day home operators.

The GNWT proposes to increase affordability by incrementally reducing child care fees in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions:

Collect and monitor child care fees

To increase affordability during the first 2 years of the Agreement. the GNWT will collect and monitor child care fees for new and existing licensed early learning and child care programs and incrementally reduce average child care fees by 50% by December 2022. Averages will be based on a calculation of all programs in the NWT, regardless of cost.

Implement the Child Care Fee Reduction Fund

The Child Care Fee Reduction Fund will provide funding to offset child care fees for children under 5 years of age attending licensed programs. To ensure the goal of a 50% reduction in child care fees by December 2022 and an overall goal of an average of $10 per day care by fiscal year 2025 to 2026, the GNWT will require licensed programs funded through the Child Care Fee Reduction Fund to agree to a child care fee cap at the required percentage in each year of the Agreement. When the targets are reached, programs will have to continue to maintain their fees at the lowered amount to access funding. It is anticipated that 88 licenced programs, representing 1,216 spaces for children from birth to age 5 years will benefit.

This reduction in child care fees will apply to licensed infant and preschool spaces and out-of-school spaces for children ages 4 and 5. The reduction will not apply to out of school spaces for children over 5 years of age during the first 2 years of the Agreement and may be considered in future years once Canada-wide targets have been achieved.

The Child Care Fee Reduction Fund will be provided based on child care fee reporting from respective licensed programs. During the fiscal year 2021 to 2022, licensed programs offering care for children from birth to age 5 will be funded and the funding will be similar to Operations and Maintenance funding. The funding will be provided through a contribution Agreement and will be effective as of January 1st, 2022.

Affordability mechanisms
  • The GNWT will provide funding to licensed programs that charge child care fees through the establishment of a Child Care Fee Reduction Fund. Centre-based licensed programs will be required to lower their fees at the rate identified by GNWT, to support achievement of the affordability targets, including a 50% reduction in average child care fees by December 2022 and providing an average of $10 per day child care by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
    • During year 1 of this program, the GNWT is exploring the potential to provide retroactive fee relief to parents for a portion child care fees already paid in fiscal year 2021 to 2022. Further information on this potential initiative will be communicated in the weeks to come
    • The Child Care Fee Reduction Fund will be provided directly to licensed programs to achieve a 50% reduction in average child care fees by no later than December 2022 and an average of $10 per day charged to families by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • Up to 88 licensed early learning and child care programs that currently charge fees will participate in the program with up to 1,216 spaces (that is, children and their families) benefitting from the reduction in fees that is passed on to them by programs
Affordability targets
  • Reduce out-of-pocket child care fees for regulated early learning and child care spaces for children aged birth to 5 years:
    • by an average of 50% from 2019Footnote 2 levels by the end of December 2022
    • to an average of $10 per day for all families needing child care, or lower for low-income families, by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • The total 2-year investment is estimated to be $10.447 million for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023; $4.723 million in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and $5.724 million in fiscal year 2022 to 2023

Area of focus: access

The early learning and child care system in the NWT recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach does not meet the needs of families in all communities. Rather, it is important to have flexibility within this system to support community members as they build early learning and child care programs that reflect their community’s unique contexts and meet child care needs. For example, some communities require additional licensed child care spaces, while communities with a small population may benefit from a family and tot drop-in program reflective of culture and traditional parenting practices.

As of November 18, 2021, the NWT has 119 licensed early childhood programs with a total of 1,071 potential child care spaces available for children from birth to 5 years old, all within the non-profit sector. An additional 919 out-of-school spaces provide afterschool care programs for children aged 4 to 11 years. Of these 919 spaces, 60 spaces are specifically for 4 and 5-year-old children. The introduction of JK resulted in an increased need to expand out-of-school care programming to include 4-year-old children. Some initiatives designed to benefit 4 and 5-year-olds may incidentally benefit older children due to limited child care program availability by community.

In communities with no licensed programming, space creation will prioritize children from birth to age 3. As mentioned above, delivery of JK and K programming to 4 and 5-year-olds continues to create a need for licensed out of school programming, which needs to be addressed to meet community child care demands.

The tables below show the availability of licensed early learning and child programs by space type and region at the beginning of the Agreement and action plan.

Table 2: Number of licensed programs for children from birth to age 11 (data valid as of November 18, 2021)
Region Centre Out of school Family day home Preschool Total
Beaufort Delta 6 2 2 2 12
Dehcho 1 2 0 2 5
North Slave 9 27 38 6 80
Sahtu 0 0 0 2 2
South Slave 4 3 11 2 20
Total 20 34 51 14 119
Table 3: Number of child spaces for children from birth to age 11 (data valid as of November 18, 2021)
Region Infant Preschool Out of school Total
Beaufort Delta 59 143 114 316
Dehcho 8 50 60 118
North Slave 175 440 634 1,249
Sahtu 0 35 0 35
South Slave 34 127 111 272
Total 276 795 919 1,990

Based on 2021 population estimates from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the population of children aged birth to 5 years old in the NWT is approximately 3,489. Since the territorial implementation of JK in fiscal year 2017 to 2018, approximately 1,000 students per year have been enrolled in JK and K. It should be noted, that JK and K are provided as optional programs for families, therefore not all 4 and 5-year-old children will be included in these calculations. It is also at the discretion of local education authorities whether to offer JK and K as a full or half-day program and this total includes both full and half-day programming, however, uptake for JK and K programming across the territory is consistently high.

The focus on improving access to early learning and child care not only includes supporting the development of new child care spaces, but also supporting actions to enable current licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs to increase utilization rates and improve access to child care in underserved communities. A particular area of attention will be upon the communities that currently do not have access to any licensed early childhood programs.

Although the number and community locations fluctuate, there are currently 13 communities in the NWT that do not have licensed child care for children from birth to 3 years old. Each of these communities has specific circumstances that have led to a lack of child care, including:

  • no or very few children in the birth to 6-year-old range (no demand)
  • difficulty operating a non-profit organization run by a volunteer society
  • no available space or infrastructure to hold such a program
  • a preference for extended family or a traditional cultural model of child care
  • no qualified or trained early learning and child care educators in the community

Flexibility within the system is key to supporting community members as they build early learning and child care programs that reflect their unique contexts and child care needs. This includes flexibility to consider infrastructure costs associated with the creation of new spaces and increased access throughout the territory. Where a community identifies a need, the GNWT will work to support a proposal for infrastructure funding and, pending eligibility, provide additional funding (for example, Health and Safety and New Child Care Spaces or start-up funding) for programs to become licensed and have quality materials to support early learning once licensed.

The GNWT will use Canada-wide funding to increase the net number of regulated child care spaces for children under 6 by 300 full-time equivalent spaces to achieve a child care coverage rate of 59% by fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

The extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022) identifies investments to support the creation and operation of spaces through new child care spaces, enhanced early childhood program operating subsidy, health and safety funding, and quality program enhancement grants. There are initial and ongoing costs associated with the creation of 300 full-time equivalent spaces over 5 years. This cost is addressed through the additional investment provided by the Canada-wide ELCC action plan.

The creation of 300 new full-time equivalent regulated child care spaces will support increased access to affordable high-quality early learning and child care programs by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026. This includes infant, preschool, and out-of-school spaces for children from birth to age 5. Due to infrastructure challenges previously mentioned, innovative approaches will be undertaken to achieve this target.

The GNWT proposes to increase accessibility in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions.

Enhanced funding for licensed programs

This Agreement will increase budgets for the health and safety, enhanced Early Childhood Program (ECP) operating subsidy, and new child care spaces (start-up) funding. All licensed centre-based programs benefit from these funding sources and, where possible, DECE staff work with communities and parent volunteer boards to support compliance and quality programming.

DECE will also need to address the results of the ELCC Funding Review (2021) with proposed changes to the methodology for providing operating subsidies to support sustainability for new and existing programs. This requires time to plan appropriately. Within the first 3 years of the Agreement. DECE will develop a new approach to funding licensed early learning and child care programs with consideration to program type and higher costs associated with operating in the NWT.

The NWT will exclusively prioritize the creation of not-for-profit care, including family day homes, when creating new spaces with federal funding. While infrastructure remains a barrier with a significant cost associated with space creation, the Early Childhood Infrastructure Fund (ECIF) is not included within this Agreement but funded through the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025 ELCC Extension Agreement and currently supports 70 licensed spaces in 3 communities.

To support access and the creation of new licensed spaces, the following funding enhancements will be supported through the Canada-wide ELCC Agreement.

Enhanced health and safety funding

This on-demand fund allows licensed programs to access up to $10,000 in additional funding toward repairs and maintenance as required by annual inspections. These repairs and maintenance must be completed to maintain a license to operate an early childhood program in the NWT and can prove to be a costly endeavor in the north. Smaller communities have increased costs for shipping resources and materials required to meet health and safety requirements. In addition, there tends to be higher costs associated with hiring tradespeople to complete minor repairs and installations, for example, sprinkler systems.

Building on the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC Bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022), funding under this Agreement of $274,000 in enhanced health and safety funding in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, to support:

  • 70 spaces will be created in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 through the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement
  • 75 full-time equivalent spaces will be created in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and fiscal year 2022 to 2023 through the Canada-wide Agreement. This includes the 70 spaces created in fiscal year 2021 to 2022

Enhanced new child care spaces

All new licensed programs, including those located in communities without licensed programs, are eligible to access this application-based funding. This funding assists with the creation of new licensed centre-based programs and family day homes by providing additional funding for the purchase of supplies, material and other costs incurred when setting up a new licensed program. This funding will also be available to programs who wish to re-profile spaces (that is, preschool to infant, based on community need). Funding for this initiative is a continuation of the investments made in the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025). These investments provide continued support to offset start-up related costs for licensed early learning and child care programs.

Building on the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022), funding under this Agreement includes a cost of $120,000 in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023 for the following:

  • creation of 70 spaces through the extension Agreement
  • creation of 75 full-time equivalent spaces through the Canada-wide Agreement
Access mechanisms
  • In addition to $9.978 million in territorial funding in fiscal year 2021 to 2022, federal funding to support accessibility is largely considered through the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022)
  • Enhanced health and safety funding and enhanced new child care spaces (start-up) funding in the amount of $394,000 in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 to support the creation of 75 new full-time equivalent spaces in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • DECE will continue to work with licensed programs, including through the territorial ECIF where possible, to support the creation of spaces
Access targets
  • Increase the net number of regulated spaces for children from birth to age 5 by at least 75 full-time equivalent spaces operated by non-profits, family day homes and Indigenous Governments by the end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • Increase the net number of regulated spaces for children from birth to age 5 by at least 300 full-time equivalent spaces operated by non-profits, family day homes and Indigenous Governments by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • The development of a response to the ELCC Funding Programs Review, specifically related to the Early Childhood Program (ECP) operating subsidy, with a new approach to offsetting operating costs for implementation beginning in fiscal year 2024 to 2025 and ongoing

Area of focus: inclusion

An inclusive and responsive early learning environment is a place where all children are welcomed and supported to actively participate. Each child feels welcomed, recognized, respected, and valued for who they are and where their family comes from. To help all children feel successful, inclusive early learning and child care programs provide supports in response to the specific needs of children and families.

Every child and family deserves to feel welcomed and safe to enrol and participate in early learning and child care programs. Central to this concept is providing all children with safe and nurturing environments that promote physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive development. Inclusive environments require an understanding of each child’s background, interests, and abilities, as well as materials and resources that reflect diverse experiences, interests, families, identities, and cultures.

In the NWT, this involves programming that is deeply rooted in the culture, language, worldviews, and practices of the community. The history and legacy of residential schools requires the GNWT to work with Indigenous Governments and local communities to collaboratively build an early learning and child care system that provides Indigenous families with access to culturally responsive and culturally safe programming. As investments continue to expand the early learning and child care system, addressing the early learning and child care needs of Indigenous families and communities is a critical part of reconciliation.

Most recently, DECE met with Indigenous Governments and held engagement sessions with licensed early learning and child care program operators and early childhood educators throughout the NWT to discuss a series of questions about the development of the Strategy. The 10-year Strategy will outline areas of focused investment and support for the advancement of the GNWT’s 19th Legislative Assembly’s Mandate to advance universal child care through increased affordability and availability in the NWT. The results of these discussions with Indigenous Governments and stakeholders have informed the development of this action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2023 to 2024) and the Strategy. This engagement and collaborative approach is in line with the Canada-wide commitment to develop a collaborative plan with relevant First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation organizations in the Northwest Territories to ensure that Indigenous children resident in the Northwest Territories have access to affordable, high-quality and culturally appropriate ELCC.

Through the extension of the Canada-ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022) cultural resources will be developed and shared with all licensed centre-based programs in the NWT, with as many as 68 programs standing to benefit. Additionally, professional learning opportunities will provide as many as 300 early childhood educators with learning opportunities and/or training on various topics, including those specific to inclusion. The extended Agreement also provides enhanced post-secondary learning opportunities delivered in French, with the potential to benefit 10 Francophone early childhood educators.

The GNWT currently provides the Supporting Child Inclusion and Participation(SCIP) program, which is an annual proposal-based territorial funding in the amount of $1.7 million designed to support licensed early learning and child care programming as well as other early learning opportunities to include children who may be vulnerable to or who have identified developmental needs. Child care providers and community members may apply for SCIP funding to support family and tot programs, hiring staff and accessing resources to support child participation, and providing professional learning opportunities to expand early childhood educators’ knowledge and understanding of working with children of different abilities.

In addition to this work, the 19th Mandate of the Legislative Assembly aims to improve early childhood development indicators, in part by shifting to an Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) approach for early childhood programs and services.

In this approach, governments, non-profit organizations, agencies, and communities work collaboratively to co-create and provide services and remove barriers that complicate access to those services. This way of working together ensures the family’s voice is held throughout the process and is known to help timely and seamless access to required services that support children and their families.

The GNWT proposes to increase inclusion in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions.

Analysis of current inclusion supports

During fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the GNWT will complete an analysis of the current approach to inclusion programs and services within the NWT and use it to develop a targeted approach to supporting all children, including those with developmental disabilities and/or from vulnerable or equity seeking families. This will include consideration of children needing enhanced or individualized supports to participate in early learning and child care programming. This work will be influenced by the current GNWT-wide ISD initiatives.

Inclusion plan and approach

The GNWT will develop an approach, with consideration of funding needs, to ensure that vulnerable children or children from equity seeking families, including but not limited to children living in low income; Indigenous children; Black and other racialized children; children of newcomers of Canada, and official language minorities, have equitable access to regulated child care spaces, in proportion to their presence in the NWT’s population. This approach will recognize the NWT as largely an Indigenous population with diversity in cultures and languages. The plan will be developed in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023 with implementation beginning in fiscal year 2024 to 2025.

Inclusion mechanisms
  • The GNWT will complete an analysis of the current approach to inclusion programs and services within the NWT and use it to develop a targeted approach to supporting children with developmental disabilities. This will include consideration of children needing enhanced supports
Inclusion targets
  • Following completion of analysis, development of a plan by fiscal year 2022 to 2023 with implementation in fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026

Area of focus: quality

One way to foster high quality early learning and child care is to support the development of a qualified early childhood workforce. Well-trained early childhood educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver high quality programs, make a significant difference in the development of children in their care. The NWT is home to approximately 300 staff working within licensed early childhood programs. Many of the staff working within these licensed programs are from the local community, providing an invaluable connection, not only to the community, but also to its local culture and language.

Currently, a large proportion of staff working in licensed early learning and child care programs do not have formal post-secondary training in early childhood development. While a certification process does not exist, the GNWT does have a credentialing process. This includes the need for a current criminal records check, First Aid training, and an individualized plan of support where they are retained as primary staff in centre-based programs but lack completion of formal post-secondary education in the field of early childhood.

There are several challenges with pursuing post-secondary education when living and working in the NWT. Challenges with leaving their community, as well as with bandwidth issues when accessing distance studies, have historically been barriers to those wishing to seek post-secondary education opportunities.

Both the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement and the ELCC Canada-wide Agreement will assist the GNWT in supporting the development of a qualified workforce within the NWT by providing current staff working within licensed early childhood programs that are center-based and family day homes with training and professional learning opportunities, as well as supports to encourage Northerners to pursue post-secondary education in the field of early childhood development.

During meetings with Indigenous Governments and engagement with licensed early learning and child care programs, participants stressed the high turnover of staff in the early learning sector who ultimately leave the field to assume other employment in the community that come with a higher wage and benefits. They explained that this is exacerbated by increased education since staff members often leave once they receive more training and education. The impact of recruitment and retention efforts to support high quality programming, including access to scholarships, professional learning and post-secondary education opportunities, are ultimately limited by low wages. This will be considered through funding supports provided following completion of redesigned operating subsidy supports for licensed programs.

Going forward, the GNWT and the federal government will work together to explore key issues related to the early childhood workforce.

The GNWT proposes to improve quality in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions.

Wage grid

The GNWT will develop a wage grid with consideration for progress toward implementation within the life of this Agreement. The wage grid will be informed by the recent engagement on both the ELCC Funding Programs Review and 2030 ELCC Strategy development, and with other Canadian jurisdictions’ models. The wage grid will take into consideration the current context in the NWT with the goal to incrementally increase wages over time and recognize a combination of education and experience for early childhood educators.

Certification requirements

Increasing the percentage of early childhood educators providing regulated child care in the territory who fully meet the NWT’s certification requirements to at least 30% by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 and to 60% by the end of the 10-year 2030 ELCC Strategy’s implementation. The GNWT will address this through development of a certification process that recognizes current education and experience, both formal and informal, and supports early childhood educators in meeting regulation requirements in the NWT. Until the certification process is developed, credentialing (a review of documents related to/completion of required training/skills) will continue to be used to support compliance with the NWT’s Child Day Care Act and Standards Regulations. The credentialing and certification processes are intended to support development and recognition of a qualified workforce.

Training and professional development

Coordinated and consistent training is essential to improve quality in licensed early childhood programs. Through this ELCC Canada-wide Agreement, the GNWT will provide professional development opportunities grounded in the cultures of NWT residents. These opportunities will include regional professional learning opportunities with content related to early childhood development, physical literacy and outdoor play as well as other topics raised by individual licensed programs. During the first year of the Agreement, these costs are addressed through the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and in the second year, costs are addressed through both agreements; the Canada-wide and the extension to the ELCC bilateral Agreement.

The professional learning opportunities will be available to all staff working within licensed early learning and child care programs in the NWT. All staff working in licensed early learning and child care programs who participate in the professional development and training would stand to benefit from this action, as would all children who are provided licensed care by those staff who participated. This initiative is expected to directly benefit as many as 300 staff working in licensed early childhood programs directly and indirectly benefiting 100% of children participating in the programs where staff participated in professional development and training work. The GNWT recognizes that annual spending will need to increase for professional learning at least in proportion to the increase in regulated child care spaces; as more spaces are created and more early childhood educators are hired and working in these programs, more professional learning will be required.

In the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022), investments include one-time workforce development funding that supports professional learning and post-secondary education opportunities.

The GNWT proposes to increase quality in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions:

  • delivery of professional learning, as outlined in the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023), will continue in year 2 of the action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022) with an estimated budget to be determined
  • delivery of post-secondary opportunities in English and, where possible, in French, as identified in the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement and action plan will continue to be offered through funding identified during the second year of that Agreement
Early learning framework

Beginning in fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the GNWT will commence a 2-year pilot of the Early Learning Framework (ELF) and Handbook with interested licensed early learning and child care programs. The pilot will include resources and training offered to participants. The subsequent action plans for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 will include implementation of a final version of the ELF that supports quality programming. Costs associated with this pilot are addressed through the professional learning budget within the extension to the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025).

Retention incentive

The GNWT will provide a retention incentive to recognize the value of early childhood educators working in center-based programs. While the GNWT develops a wage grid, the retention incentive bridges the wage gap for early childhood educators in fiscal year 2022 to 2023. The retention incentive is intended to support retention of qualified early childhood educators, recognize the valuable role they play, and support increased professionalization of their role.

During the fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023, center-based early childhood educators will benefit from the retention incentive with consideration for the time worked in a program during each fiscal year. The anticipated cost for actions related to quality is $0 for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and $1.071 million for fiscal year 2022 to 2023 with a total investment of $1.071 million.

Quality mechanisms
  • Provide a retention incentive to help attract and retain early childhood educators and ELCC staff in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 in advance of implementation of a wage grid
  • Develop a wage grid with an implementation plan beginning in the life of this Agreement
  • Creation of a certification process for early childhood educators to remain working in licensed early learning, supported through online platform implementation, by fiscal year 2024 to 2025
  • Increased professional development and post-secondary education program delivery with implementation of a wage grid that further recognizes their role as professionals
  • Pilot of the Early Learning Framework (ELF) and Handbook
Quality targets
  • By fiscal year 2021 to 2022, gather baseline data on wages across the jurisdiction
  • Creation of a wage grid with an implementation plan developed within the life of this Agreement
  • Creation of a certification process for early childhood educators beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023. This will be supported through an online platform implementation of credentialing beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 and certification in fiscal year 2024 to 2025
  • As many as 312 early childhood educators will benefit form increased wages through the retention incentive funding in fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • The total 2-year investment is estimated to be $1.071 million for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023; $0 in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and $1.071 million in fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the implementation of a 2-year pilot of the Early Learning Framework (ELF) and Handbook

Area of focus: reporting and administration

This Agreement has significantly increased requirements for data collection and reporting, in many cases for the first time. DECE recognizes the importance of accurate data and analysis to inform change, as well as the need to expand dedicated human capacity to implement the commitments under this Agreement.

The recently completed ELCC Funding Programs Review (2021) indicated the need for improvements in the specificity and consistency of financial data provided by licensed early learning and child care programs. This information will be used to inform a redesign of the current financial supports provided to licensed programs, including the Early Childhood Program (ECP) operating subsidy and Early Childhood Staff Grant, with a longer-term plan for ongoing improvements through monitoring and reporting.

With increased reporting requirements, the GNWT will need to consider additional infrastructure and technology supports needed to systematically collect and report on existing and new data included in this Agreement and action plan. Analysis of infrastructure and technology needs and costing will be completed during the first 2 years of the Agreement with a plan to address ongoing data collection and reporting needs through infrastructure and technology improvement, as appropriate, beginning no later than year 3 of the Agreement.

Additional human resources are required to administer this Agreement, including expertise for licensing and program support, financial planning, analysis and reporting; and, policy development. These costs are identified in the budget and are anticipated to be ongoing.

Reporting mechanisms

The GNWT proposes to increase reporting in licensed early learning and child care programs through the following actions.

Enhancement of human resources capacity

Divisions within DECE will need to establish an enhanced, more strategic and integrated approach to administrative operations to work towards a Canada-wide child care system and ensure better program development and implementation, policy coordination, financial planning, and data and reporting. This team will be responsible for:

  • developing standards of practice, promoting information-sharing across jurisdictions, and beginning work on the development of a Canada-wide early learning and child care system
  • design and implement funding changes in response to the ELCC Funding Programs Review (2021), including consideration of affordability
  • launching an Early Learning Framework to support children and families with enhanced support needs
  • complete analysis, develop and implement a plan for inclusion of diverse and vulnerable populations in licensed early learning and child care programming
  • support establishment of new child care spaces through support of the non-profit early learning and child care sector in NWT
  • program management and designing mechanisms to reduce administrative burden for recipients of early learning and child care funding

To support the implementation of the Canada-wide system, the expansion of human resources capacity within DECE will allow for quantitative and qualitative analysis in support of policy development, research and evaluation to support access to high quality programming and fulfill the requirements of the Agreement through:

  • working with the Office of the Chief Information Officer to determine and create a data system to improve early learning and child care data capture in the territory
  • a plan to establish a data collection and reporting system that is able to collect and dynamically report on the following:
    • average daily out-of-pocket fees for families accessing licensed child care spaces at the end of each fiscal year
    • number of children from birth to age 5 receiving child care fee reductions
    • number of net new spaces created during the fiscal year, broken down by age groups of child and type of setting
    • number and percentage of staff working in regulated child care programs who fully meet the credentialing and/or certification requirements
    • wages of the early childhood workforce according to the categories of credentialing and/or certification, including any wage enhancements, top-ups and/or supplements
    • annual public expenditure on post-secondary education and professional learning opportunities of the early childhood workforce
    • number of inclusive spaces supported through professional learning, resources and/or funding for staffing to support child participation, broken down by age group of child and type of program and location
    • number and proportion of children from birth to age 5 and 6 to 12 years in flexible regulated early learning and child care arrangements
    • number of children from birth to age 5 and 6 to 12 years with specific developmental needs that are in licensed early learning and child care spaces
    • number or proportion of child care service programs who provide services that are adapted to the needs of children with exceptionalities or special needs
    • number of Indigenous children from birth to age 5 in licensed early learning and child care programs, where possible broken down by distinction (that is, First Nation, Metis, Inuit)
    • number of racialized Canadian children, including Black children, from birth to age 5 in licensed early learning and child care spaces
  • applied research to:
    • collect and report national and international data to inform program and policy change
    • review early learning and child care data and identify territorial gaps for future program development and policy change
  • undertake an annual census or survey of early learning and child care programs and other participants in the sector in the NWT to collect information
  • contracting external auditing services to meet the auditing requirements of the bilateral agreements
  • data sharing with Canada and timely reporting as outlined under section 5.2 of the Agreement

Development of an Infrastructure and technology framework

With increased reporting requirements noted above, the GNWT will need to consider additional infrastructure and technology supports needed to systematically collect and report on existing and new data included in this Agreement and action plan. Analysis of infrastructure and technology needs and costing will be completed during the first 2 years of the Agreement with a plan to address ongoing data collection and reporting needs through infrastructure and technology improvement, as appropriate, beginning no later than year 3 of the Agreement.

Annual census

The GNWT will develop a standardized annual census of licensed early learning and child care programs and other participants in the sector to gather data that will be used to inform program and policy development within NWT as for the larger Canada-wide early learning and child care system.

Data gathered through the census or survey will include, but is not limited to:

  • number of children enrolled in licensed programs
  • capacity (number of spaces)
  • number of early childhood educators
  • early childhood educators’ wages and qualifications
  • fees charged to families
  • licensed program funding
  • number of Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit or Metis) child care spaces supported
  • number of children from birth to age 5 who present with vulnerabilities and/or with specific developmental needs that are in licensed early learning and child care

Create systematic licensing and monitoring, and professional development reporting processes by fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

Reporting targets

  • Enhancement of human resources capacity:
    • by March 31, 2022, the GNWT will have outlined specific plans to increase the human resource capacity within DECE
      • Identification of new positions to support the creation of licensed spaces and quality program development and implementation
      • New positions to support financial planning and reporting
      • Identification of new positions to support data collection, monitoring and evaluation of the system
    • beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 and continuing to fiscal year 2025 to 2026, DECE will begin the human resources expansion
  • development of an Infrastructure and Technology Framework:
    • by March 31, 2024, the GNWT will have a plan in place to procure or establish an infrastructure and technology data framework to capture early learning and child care data. No outcomes are expected in fiscal year 2022 to 2023 for this target
      • Implementation of infrastructure and technology support systems to capture increased data collection and reporting and an outline of costing to implement infrastructure and technology improvements will occur from fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • census:
    • by March 31, 2023, NWT will have developed an annual census or survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector
    • by March 31, 2024, NWT will have begun implementation of an annual census or survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector
    • by March 31, 2024, NWT will have consistent licensed early learning and child care baseline data, including:
      • number of children enrolled
      • capacity (number of spaces)
      • number of early childhood educators
      • early childhood educators’ wages and qualifications
      • fees charged to families
      • licensed program funding
      • number of First Nations, Inuit or Metis child care spaces supported
      • number of children from birth to age 5 who present with vulnerabilities and/or with specific developmental needs that are in licensed early learning and child care

Investments

  • The total 2-year investment is estimated to be $1.156 million for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023; $639,000 in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and $877,000 in fiscal year 2022 to 2023

NWT indicators, targets and budget

Table 4: Canada-wide investments in Northwest Territories for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023

Total CW-ELCC investments in fiscal year 2021 to 2022: $6.392 million.

Total CW-ELCC investments in fiscal year 2022 to 2023: $8.766 million.

Note: the tables below were modified for accessibility reasons.
Table 4a: Canada-wide investments towards affordability*
Initiative Indicator Target Data currently available Fiscal year 2021 to 2022 Fiscal year 2022 to 2023
Reaching an average of 10$ per day per child by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 for all regulated child care spaces
  • 1) (Baseline) Average child care fees for licensed programs as of the end of fiscal year 2020 to 2021
  • 2) Average child care fees for licensed programs as of December 2022 and ongoing
  • 1) Establish baseline average child care fees for licensed programs by December 2021
  • 2) 50% reduction in average child care fees for licensed programs by December 2022
No $5.703 million $6.324 million
Table 4b: Canada-wide investments towards access*
Initiative Indicator Target Data currently available Fiscal year 2021 to 2022 Fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 1) Creation of 300 full time equivalent regulated high-quality affordable regulated early learning and child care spaces by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • 2) Development of a response to the ELCC Funding Programs Review with a new approach to offsetting operating costs for implementation beginning in fiscal year 2024 to 2025 and ongoing
  • 1) Number of new licensed early learning and child care spaces through the fiscal years 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 2) A new approach to offsetting operating costs is developed and implemented beginning in fiscal year 2024 to 2025 and ongoing
  • 1) Creation of 75 high-quality affordable licensed early learning and child care spaces by fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 2) A new approach to offsetting operating costs is implemented beginning in fiscal year 2024 to 2025 and ongoing
  • 1) Yes
  • 2) No
  • Enhanced Healthy and Safe Spaces Funding: $0
  • New Child Care Spaces: $0
  • Enhanced Healthy and Safe Spaces Funding: $274,000
  • New Child Care Spaces: $105,000
Table 4c: Canada-wide investments towards inclusion*
Initiative Indicator Target Data currently available Fiscal year 2021 to 2022 Fiscal year 2022 to 2023
Promote integrated services that will enable access to early learning for vulnerable children and those with specific developmental needs Develop and fund a plan for integrated services that will enable access to early learning and vulnerable children and those with specific developmental needs Complete an analysis to examine how vulnerable children, including those with specific developmental needs, are currently included in early learning opportunities across the territory to identify strengths and barriers that exist within the early childhood sector by fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and fiscal year 2022 to 2023 No $50,000 $100,000
Table 4d: Canada-wide investments towards quality*
Initiative Indicator Target Data currently available Fiscal year 2021 to 2022 Fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 1) Enhanced retention and qualification of early childhood educators working in licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs
  • 2) Create a wage grid for early childhood educators by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • 3) Create a certification process for early childhood educators by fiscal year 2024 to 2025
  • 1) Number of early childhood educators working in licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs who receive a retention incentive by end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 2) Average wage per hour of early childhood educators by position type working in licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs as of end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 3) Number of early childhood educators as a percentage of the total number of staff in licensed centre-based programs who meet the minimum post-secondary education requirements legislated in the NWT’s Child Day Care Act and Standards Regulations as of end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023 and ongoing
  • 1) Benefit up to 300 early childhood educators working in licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs with the retention incentive funding by end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 2) Establish a baseline average wage per hour of early childhood educators by position type working in licensed centre-based early learning and child care programs as of end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 3) Establish a baseline number of early childhood educators who meet the education requirements legislated in the NWT’s Child Day Care Act and Standards Regulations by end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
No $0 $1.071 million
Table 4e: Reporting and administration costs*
Initiative Indicator Target Data currently available Fiscal year 2021 to 2022 Fiscal year 2022 to 2023
Establish consistent licensed early learning and child care baseline data Increased data collection and reporting of financial and administrative requirements through an annual census of child care providers
  • 1) Develop an annual census or survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector by fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • 2) Implement an annual census/survey of child care providers and other participants in the sector by fiscal year 2023 to 2024
  • 3) Outline specific plans to increase capacity within DECE by fiscal year 2023 to 2024
  • 4) Plan in place to procure or establish an infrastructure and technology data framework to capture ELCC data by fiscal year 2024 to 2025
No $639,000 $877,000

*Given the Northwest Territories’ unique early learning and child care system, and the infrastructure and staffing challenges faced in the north, funding may move between the individual programming categories, as per section 4.8.2 of the Agreement.

The table above shows the areas of investment for the Canada-wide ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026) and the 2-year action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023). These investments compliment investments identified through the Canada-NWT ELCC bilateral Agreement (fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2024 to 2025) and 1-year action plan (fiscal year 2021 to 2022).

References

Government of the Northwest Territories (2013). Right from the Start: A Framework for Early Childhood Development in the NWT.

Government of the Northwest Territories (2017). Right from the Start: Early Childhood Development Action Plan 2017 to 2020: https://www.ece.gov.nt.ca/sites/www.ece.gov.nt.ca/files/resources/ecd_action_plan_2017-20_-_june_2017.pdf

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