Canada – Nova Scotia Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement – 2021 to 2026

Official title: Canada – Nova Scotia Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement

On this page

List of abbreviations

APP
Advanced Practitioner Program
CCH
Communities, Culture and Heritage
CQI
Continuous Quality Improvement
DESDA
Department of Employment and Social Development Act
ECCRC
Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre
ECDIS
Early Childhood Development Intervention Services
ECE
Early Childhood Educators
EDI
Early Developmental Instrument
EECD
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
ELCC
Early Learning and Child Care
ELCCA
Early Learning and Child Care Agreement
FES
Fall Economic Statement
ISG
Inclusion Support Grant
IT
Information technology
NS
Nova Scotia
NS-BAP
Nova Scotia Before and After Program
NSCC
Nova Scotia Community College
PBS
Positive Behaviour Support
PD
Professional development
PPP
Pre-Primary Program
QM
Quality Matters
RST
Regional Support Team
RCE
Regional Centres for Education
SMART
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely
YMCA
Young Men’s Christian Association
YWCA
Young Women’s Christian Association

Canada – Nova Scotia 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 (“Canada”) and as represented by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (herein referred to as “the federal Minister”); and
  • the government of Nova Scotia (hereinafter referred to as Nova Scotia”) as represented by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development herein referred to as “the Nova Scotia Minister”)

Referred to collectively as the “Parties”.

Preamble

Whereas, Canada and Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia will work together to build a community-based system of quality, regulated Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC), 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 (FES), 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, 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 Public Service Act authorizes the Nova Scotia Minister to enter in agreements with the Government of Canada under which Canada undertakes to provide funding toward costs incurred by the Government of Nova Scotia 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, Nova Scotia invests in early learning and child care for Indigenous children and Canada and Nova Scotia agree to work collaboratively with Indigenous governing bodies and organizations to achieve a Canada-wide ELCC system.

Now therefore, Canada and Nova Scotia agree as follows.

1.0 Vision for Canada-wide early learning and child care

1.1 Canada will be guided by the long-term vision and objectives set out in the Multilateral Framework in making investments in early learning and child care committed in Budget 2021 across jurisdictions. Canada and Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia aspire to the following objectives:

  1. providing a 50% reduction in average parent fees for provincially-funded, regulated ELCC programs and services (as described in section 2.2) by the end of 2022 and reaching an average of $10/day by fiscal year 2025 to 2026 for all provincially-funded, 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia commit to the following provincial objectives:

  • affordability:
    • Nova Scotia commits to using federal funding to reduce out-of-pocket parent fees for ELCC spaces for children under age 6 by an average of 50% from 2019 levels by the end of 2022
    • Nova Scotia commits to using federal funding to reduce out-of-pocket parent fees for full-time ELCC spaces for children under age 6 to an average of $10/day by the end of fiscal year 2025 to 2026
  • accessibility:
    • Nova Scotia commits to using federal funding to increase the net number of regulated child care spaces for children under age 6 to achieve a coverage rate of approximately 59% by fiscal year 2025 to 2026
    • in creating these child care spaces, Nova Scotia commits that:
      • federal funding will be used exclusively to support not-for-profit private and public child care providers/operations, as well as family-based child care
      • federal funding will be exclusively used to support regulated child care (as per section 2.2)
  • quality:
    • Nova Scotia 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 (ECE) and committing to its implementation
      • increasing the percentage of child care workers providing regulated child care in the province who fully meet Nova Scotia’s certification requirements to at least 60% and by at least 15 percentage points by fiscal year 2025 to 2026, whichever leads to a greater percentage
  • inclusive:
    • Nova Scotia 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 province or territory
      • concrete actions will be included in the template agreement for each P/T
    • in supporting inclusive child care, Nova Scotia commits:
      • to track the number of inclusive spaces with inclusive programming created/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:
    • Nova Scotia commits to share financial and administrative data (including micro data) needed to monitor progress in establishing the Canada-wide system

2.1.2 Nova Scotia’s policy and approach to achieving the objectives set out in this Article 2.1.1 is set out in its Action Plan attached as Annex 2.

2.2 Eligible areas of investment

2.2.1 Nova Scotia 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/territorial governments and Indigenous governments and authorities
  2. not-for-profit providers/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

Definitions provided under 2.2.1 apply throughout the Agreement, unless otherwise stipulated

2.2.2 In developing and delivering its early learning and child care programs and services, Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia to support the growth, expansion, implementation and administration of this agreement.

2.2.4 Canada and Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 section 3.2.1, Nova Scotia may continue to use funding provided to cover the same eligible areas of investment as those covered through funding received for the period 2021 to 2026 subject to the terms and conditions of that extended agreement.

4.0 Financial provisions

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

4.2 Allocation to Nova Scotia

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 2021 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, Nova Scotia’s estimated projected share of the amounts described in section 4.2.1 will be as follows.

Table 1: Nova Scotia’s estimated projected share of financial provisions by fiscal year
Fiscal year Estimated amount to be paid to Nova Scotia* (subject to annual adjustment)
2021 to 2022 $67,968,537
2022 to 2023 $100,946,877
2023 to 2024 $123,458,100
2024 to 2025 $143,474,017
2025 to 2026 $169,078,220

* The notional allocations for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 use Statistics Canada's population estimates as at July 1st, 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 Nova Scotia for the fiscal year will be calculated using the following 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 quarterly 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.

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 60 days after the signatures from both Parties are affixed to the Agreement. The second installment will be paid on or about November 15
  • 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia at the beginning of each Fiscal year of their notional amount. The actual amount will be based on the Statistics Canada quarterly preliminary children (0 to 12) population estimates on July 1 of the preceding fiscal year.

4.4.5 Starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Canada shall withhold payment of its second installment for that fiscal year until Nova Scotia provides an annual progress report outlining data and results achieved from the previous fiscal year and its annual audited financial statement of the previous fiscal year in accordance with section 5.2.

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 Nova Scotia all information requested under section 4.4.5 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 Nova Scotia is unable to meet the objectives of the Agreement, in accordance with section 2.

4.4.8 In fiscal year 2023 to 2024, Canada shall withhold payment of its first installment if Canada has not received from Nova Scotia 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.

4.4.9 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 Nova Scotia is subject to an annual appropriation by Nova Scotia’s legislature.

4.5 Maximum annual contribution in respect of administration costs

4.5.1 Canada’s contribution in respect of Nova Scotia’s administration costs referred to in section 2.2.3 and 2.3 shall not exceed:

  • in the fiscal years covered under this Agreement an amount of 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 Nova Scotia, and subject to the approval of Canada’s Treasury Board by the federal Minister, Nova Scotia may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from Nova Scotia’s annual funding payable under section 4.2, up to a maximum of 52% of the contribution payable. Any unexpended funds in excess of 52% 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 Nova Scotia, and subject to the approval of Canada’s Treasury Board by the federal Minister, Nova Scotia may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from Nova Scotia’s annual funding payable under section 4.2, up to a maximum of 30% of the contribution payable. Any unexpended funds in excess of 30% 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 Nova Scotia, and subject to the approval of Canada’s Treasury Board by the federal Minister, Nova Scotia may retain and carry forward to the following fiscal year any unexpended funds remaining from Nova Scotia’s annual funding 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 Nova Scotia may only use an 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 through 4.6.3 is supplementary to the maximum amount payable to Nova Scotia 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 through 4.6.3 must be spent by the end of the applicable fiscal year. Nova Scotia 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 the applicable sections 4.6.1, 4.6.2 or 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 Nova Scotia exceed the amount to which Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia under this Agreement.

4.8 Use of funds

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

4.8.2 Canada and Nova Scotia agree that, within each fiscal year of the period of this Agreement, Nova Scotia may move funding between the individual programming categories outlined in its Action Plan in Annex 2 to ensure the maximum use of funding. Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia.

4.8.3 Canada and Nova Scotia 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 provincial or municipal spending in place on or before March 31, 2021.

5.0 Accountability

5.1 Action plan

5.1.1 Nova Scotia has completed and shared its Action Plan for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and fiscal year 2022 to 2023 (Annex). Subsequently, Nova Scotia 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. Nova Scotia 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, 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/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/providers that provide flexible arrangements (that is non-traditional arrangements such as flexible/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 spaces
    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 Canadian children, including Black Canadian children under age 6 in regulated ELCC spaces
    11. number and percentage of staff working in regulated child care programs in Nova Scotia who fully meet the Nova Scotia’s 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 Nova Scotia plans to address the ELCC needs of its children/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 consultation processes referred to in section 5.1.2, the type of groups consulted and annual priorities related to stakeholder feedback

5.1.2 Nova Scotia will consult with parents, child care providers, experts, Indigenous peoples, official language minority communities and other interested parties as an important step in developing and revising its Action Plan. Nova Scotia 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, Nova Scotia 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 one or both of the Parties and Canada will be able to provide Nova Scotia 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, Nova Scotia 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 By no later than October 1 of each fiscal year during the period of this Agreement, Nova Scotia agrees to:

  1. provide to Canada an Annual Report in the format and manner decided jointly by Canada and Nova Scotia. 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/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 Nova Scotia 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 (g) and any evaluation activities undertaken in the fiscal year, as available
  2. in addition to the Annual Report, the Nova Scotia Minister shall report, in writing, to the federal Minister on Nova Scotia’s success in meeting the “results on average child care fees and the average 50% reduction in fees by the end of 2022” by January 31, 2023
  3. continue to provide to Canada additional data required for the publication of the annual National Progress Report
  4. provide to Canada an audited financial statement of revenues received from Canada under this Agreement during the fiscal year
    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 Nova Scotia in developing and administering ELCC programs under section 2.2.3
    4. if applicable, the amount of any amount carried forward by Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia Auditor General or his/her delegate, or by an independent public accounting firm registered under the laws of Nova Scotia and shall be conducted in accordance with Canadian Generally Accepted Auditing Standards.
  5. provide financial and administrative information, as required, to demonstrate progress in meeting the requirements in this Agreement
  6. Canada and Nova Scotia 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, Nova Scotia agrees to report to the people of Nova Scotia 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)
  7. to inform reporting on results related to Nova Scotia Action Plan, Nova Scotia agrees to undertake, and share results with Canada from, an annual census of child care providers and other participants in the sector in Nova Scotia to collect information, including: number of children enrolled, capacity (number of spaces), number of 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 Nova Scotia, 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 Nova Scotia will ensure that expenditure information presented in the annual report is, in accordance with Nova Scotia’s standard accounting practices, complete and accurate.

5.4 Evaluation

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

5.4.2 Nova Scotia 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 $10 a day child care, Canada and Nova Scotia will create an officials-level Implementation Committee that will monitor progress towards this goal in consultation with stakeholders. Nova Scotia will provide data to support the work of the Implementation Committee

6.2 Canada and Nova Scotia, 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 other 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 and results, 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 provincial programs supported under this Agreement
  6. monitor progress towards the shared goal of $10/day child care, in consultation with stakeholders
  7. in December 2022, report to the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia on progress towards Canada and Nova Scotia’s shared goals to date and for the remaining term of the Agreement.

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

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

7.4 Canada agrees to acknowledge Nova Scotia’s contribution in public communications and marketing products, promotional material and advertising where specifically related to or associated with Nova Scotia.

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

7.6 Nova Scotia reserves the right to conduct public communications, announcements, events, outreach and promotional activities about the Framework and bilateral agreements. Nova Scotia 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.

7.7 Canada and Nova Scotia agree to participate in a joint announcement upon signing of this Agreement.

7.8 Canada and Nova Scotia agree to work together to identify opportunities for joint announcements relating to programs funded under this Agreement.

7.9 Nova Scotia 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.

7.10 Nova Scotia agrees that promotional communications to all groups receiving funding through this Agreement (that is 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.

7.11 Canada will provide a mutually agreed upon standard letter to Nova Scotia for use in notifying all recipients of funding from this Agreement, to include federal and Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia, as the case may be, may notify the other party in writing of the failure or breach. Upon such notice, Canada and Nova Scotia 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 Nova Scotia Minister shall endeavour to resolve the dispute.

8.4 If either Party has failed to comply with its obligations or undertakings and where Nova Scotia 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, may be amended at any time by mutual consent of the Parties. To be valid, any amendments shall be in writing and signed by Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development for the Province, and the  Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

9.2 Waiver

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 not respected by Nova Scotia by giving at least 6 months written notice of its intention to terminate. Nova Scotia may terminate this Agreement at any time if the terms of this Agreement are not respected by Canada by giving at least 6 months written notice of its intention to terminate.

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 Nova Scotia 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:

Social Policy Directorate
140 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau QC  K1A 0J9
NC-SSP-ELCC-GD@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

The address for notice or communication to Nova Scotia shall be:

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
4th Floor, 2021 Brunswick Street
Halifax NS  B3J 2S9
EarlyYears@novascotia.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 Nova Scotia.

12.4 No member of the House of Commons or of the Senate of Canada or of the Legislature of Nova Scotia 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 Halifax this 13th day of July, 2021.

[Signed by] the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Signed on behalf of Nova Scotia by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development at Halifax this 13th day of July, 2021.

[Signed by] the Honourable Derek Mombourquette, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

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 on this agreement, please consult the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

Annex 2: Nova Scotia’s action plan for fiscal year 2021 to 2022 to fiscal year 2022 to 2023

Nova Scotia’s early learning and child care system

The Federal Government’s vision is that all families in Canada have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live.

With an investment of almost $30 billion over the next five years and $8.3 billion ongoing to work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, key components of the Canada-wide system include:

  • 50% reduction in average parent fees for regulated ELCC by the end of 2022 and reaching an average of $10/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

To understand Nova Scotia’s vision for early learning and child care, it is important to understand the history of early learning and care within the province, and the journey since 2013 to create the highest quality, most affordable and accessible early learning and child care system in Canada. An overview of Nova Scotia’s history in early learning and child care can be found in Appendix A.

Nova Scotia investment in early learning and child care

Nova Scotia spends over $70M in annual grants to the child care sector, which includes $26M through the Child Care Subsidy program. In addition to these grants, the province invests $54.5M in the Pre-Primary Program.

The commitment to Nova Scotians

By 2025, Nova Scotian families will have access to affordable and high-quality care options for their children. Nova Scotia will increase spaces for children from birth to age 5 by over 9,500, meeting the target as identified by the Government of Canada. These high-quality options for families will be on average $10/day and subsidies will be available for families who cannot afford the $10/day fees (see more detail on subsidy, see section on Affordability).

Provincial child care policies will be, child and family centred. Extra fees to cover registration, cancellations and summer breaks will not be permitted. Through consultation with families across Nova Scotia, the province will be able to ensure that child care options are responsive to family needs, providing care where and when needed. Keeping child and family needs at the forefront of decision-making will ensure that programs are responsive to the needs of families today and going forward.

All regulated child care centres and Pre-Primary Programs will be led by trained Early Childhood Educators (ECE) with, at minimum, a diploma in Early Childhood Education. Nova Scotia’s early learning programs will be recognized as being among the highest quality programs in the country. ECEs will receive compensation that is reflective of their education, training and years of experience in caring for and educating Nova Scotia’s youngest citizens.

Pathways for care: options for families

The geography, population and current early learning and child care system in Nova Scotia makes a one-size-fits-all approach impossible, and would not meet the needs of all Nova Scotian families. What works for families in downtown Halifax, may not work for families in Dunvagen, Barrington, Eskasoni, or East Preston. Nova Scotia will use multiple options to ensure families are able to access the care they need, when they need it and to ensure that it is reflective of the communities they live and play in.

There will be multiple on-ramps for families to access care. Nova Scotia’s early learning and child care system will include:

  • licensed family home child care agencies: These agencies offer child care options through an approved family home child care provider in communities where there is not sufficient demand or enough children for a licensed child care facility to be viable. Family home child care also provides options for families who prefer a home-based environment with smaller group sizes
  • licensed child care providers (centre-base care): infant to school age care to be provided as they are now in communities
  • 3-year old programmingFootnote 1: 2,000 3 year olds will have access to an early learning program in schools
  • Pre-primary Program: every 4 year old in Nova Scotia will continue to have access to an early learning program the year before they start school
  • primary: every 5 year old in Nova Scotia will continue to be part of the public school program in Nova Scotia’s first year of school
  • wrap-around care offered by regional centres for education (RCE)Footnote 2 for 3 to 5 year olds: families with young children attending programs in a school setting want access to wrap-around programming offered on site in the school building, making for a seamless full day for children

Regulated child care governance

Currently regulated child care is administered through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) with individual contracts/relationships with licensed child care centres. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is responsible for the Early Learning and Child Care Act and the regulations, policies, licensing, and funding agreements that support the Act. Licensed child care centres are currently a mix of not-for-profit organizations and private businesses. As of December 2020, there were 348 licensed child care centres in Nova Scotia with a total of 16,680 licensed spaces. Approximately 60% of child care centres in Nova Scotia are for-profit. Approved family home child care providers are independent citizens who are managed by a licensed family home child care agency, which can be a private business or a not-for-profit organization.

As Nova Scotia moves to a universal system, it is imperative that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development consider an alternate way to govern and administer child care in Nova Scotia.

A new provincial organization to manage child care

Nova Scotia will develop a new provincial organization that will manage all regulated child care in the province. A provincial executive director, regional directors and centre based managers/pedagogical leaders will lead the organization and be responsible for meeting mandated objectives as determined by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD). The Province will provide the organization with an annual funding agreement to support all regulated child care centres and licensed family home child care agencies that fall under their mandate. Current regulated child care centres will transition from individual contracts with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to a new governance and infrastructure model on April 1, 2022. The organization will oversee contracts for or manage the overall delivery of provincial child care including managing child care spaces and need in community, ECE compensation and wages/benefits (labour relations), daily parent fees, and centre finances.

In addition to the day-to-day management of child care, the organization will be responsible for:

  • managing any provincial wait lists for child care
  • recruitment and retention of ECEs
  • conducting community needs assessment within communities to determine the type of care needed
  • ensuring that the numbers and types of spaces available in a community reflect the demographic needs (that is, if a centre has 25 school age spaces, and there is a need in community for 20 new spaces for 2 year olds, the provincial organization would work with local RCE to accommodate the school-age children in their wrap-around program, freeing up more space for 2 year olds in the child care centre)
  • first point of contact for families on registering their child for care anywhere in the province so families have all they information they need in making decisions

All not-for-profit centres will be required to transition to the provincial organization by April 1, 2022, and fall under the management, mandate and organization of the organization immediately. If boards decide to dissolve, ECEs formerly working in not-for-profit centres will become employees of the organization and will deliver care to families using provincial family friendly policies, curriculum framework, parent fee structure, subsidy program and quality requirements as set out by the department.

The organization will be responsible for ensuring that care is of high quality, inclusive and culturally responsive, paying close attention to the communities in Nova Scotia that have been historically marginalized. They will be responsible for ensuring that children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports are welcome, accepted and supported. The organization will ensure the continued implementation of the Nova Scotia Early Learning Curriculum Framework and the Pyramid Model for Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children (the Pyramid model) as well as any other quality enhancement programs that will be implemented in the future.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will maintain authority for all policy, legislative and regulatory requirements for licenced child care including licensing requirements.

Current child care centres will start to become part of the organization on April 1st, 2022.

Prioritization of not-for-profit care

As Nova Scotia transforms the current early learning and child care system, we will be moving to a fully-not-for-profit model. Currently 60% of centres are for-profit businesses. It will be important as we transform our early learning and care system, that we do not destabilize the sector to the point that families no longer have access to care in their community. Where federal funding is used to support new child care spaces in the province, it must be used exclusively to fund new spaces operated by not-for-profit, public, and family-based child care providers. Nova Scotia understands that federal funds will not be used for new for-profit spaces.

For 1 year only, the Government of Canada will fund 2,500 provincially funded not for profit spaces, at a cost of $10 million, though Canada-wide ELCC funds. This will allow Nova Scotia to utilize $10 million of provincial funding to offer one-time “transition support” to for profit child care to become not-for-profit care. This will be a one-time investment to ensure that Nova Scotia gives current for-profit providers the opportunity to transition to not-for-profit status. It is anticipated that there will be strong interest in this approach and that $10 million will be sufficient to support the transition process.

Nova Scotia is hiring a financial services firm to define the path from for-profit to non-profit. This will include articulating options for operators to understand the steps involved in shifting their business process. It is expected that this work will wrap up in August 2021. Once that work is complete, the department will engage with individual for-profit providers to support them in their transition, including utilizing $10 million to support operators financially to sign-on to the new not-for-profit spaces.

Nova Scotia action plan 2021 to 2023

Affordability

Nova Scotians have told us for years that they struggle to pay monthly child care bills. Despite efforts to increase the per diem rates for subsidy and support more families to be able to access the subsidy program, child care for many, remains unaffordable.

By fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the Government of Canada will fund a 50% reduction in fees for all early learning and child care spaces the are a part of the Nova Scotia (NS) early learning and child care system.

Table 2: Current fees in funded centres (April 2021)
Centre type Current fee average (April 2021)
Infant, full day $42.66
Toddler, full day $36.56
Preschool, full day $36.27
Preschool, part day $16.44
School age $20.48

To meet the objective of reducing costs to 50% by 2022, Nova Scotia will:

  • notice of fee reduction: Nova Scotia will inform all operators by October 1, 2021, regardless of auspice that funding to reduce costs to 50% are based on 2019 fees. NS will amend current funding agreements with centres to ensure they are aware that the fees for families must be reduced by December 31, 2022, or they will no longer be eligible for funding
    • Estimated cost: approximately $21.4 million in fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • true cost of care: Nova Scotia will conduct an in-depth analysis of the true costs to deliver child care. Nova Scotia will hire a child care centre consultant and financial services company to review audited financial statements of Nova Scotia’s child care centres, as well as for-profit annual reports, in order to explore centre revenues and expenses and determine a cost per space model for the province, at both a regional and a provincial level. This information will be used to determine a provincial per diem for child care spaces (infant, toddler, pre-school, and school age/wrap-around) in order for the province to plan for a new financial model for early learning and care This is an important step in determining the long term funding agreements for spaces
    • The analysis will inform the positions and funding required by a centre. In addition, the analysis will look at reasonable operational costs, like rent and utilities. The objective will be to ensure that child care programs have sufficient funding to offer high quality programs, pay staff wages, support operation costs, and that provincial or federal funds will be used to reduce costs for families as much as possible. The Government of Canada will not be funding any for-profit spaces for operators. Nova Scotia will continue to fund for-profit spaces until they retire or sell their business or transition to not-for-profit status. Nova Scotia will not fund any new for-profit child care centres going forward. Nova Scotia will use funds from the Canada-wide system to support families to reduce their child care costs based on a not-for profit funding model. This approach will not support profit in child care because we will be basing the reduction on the true cost of care, which will be based on a not-for-profit model
    • estimated cost: $150,000
    • timelines: from August to November 2021, the Child Care Consultant and Financial Consultant will be hired to conduct an analysis of fees charged from 2019 to current, and make recommendations on the cost of care, per space. This will inform the designated cost per space model that Nova Scotia will begin using on April 1, 2022. Child care operators will be given new funding agreements based on this information and the pre-determined cost of care. They will be required to only charge those fees in order to be eligible for provincial funding, for their families to be eligible for the 50% fee reduction on December 21, 2022
  • marketing plan: Nova Scotia will develop a targeted marketing plan for families who are enrolled in or considering child care to inform them of the fee reduction. This will include explanation of provincial and federal funding and what they should expect for fees. This campaign will be a public information style campaign:
    • estimated cost: $100,000
    • timeline: the marketing campaign will be phased in during the 2022 year
  • Child Care Subsidy Program: Nova Scotia anticipates that child care subsidy program costs will increase due to an increase in current spaces moving from 78% to 79% utilization to 100%
    • target: increase in spaces utilization from 78% to 79%, to 100%
    • estimated cost: $1,800,000 in fiscal year 2021 to 2022
    • Child Care Subsidy Program eligibility and per diem rates will be updated once NS is providing a 50% reduction in fees as well as an average of $10/day. This will require policy changes as well as information technology (IT) system upgrades. In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will form a team, including financial consulting services, to develop a new subsidy policy (criteria for eligibility and sliding scale rate) to support families in paying between $0 and $20/day. This will allow marginalized families who have historically not been able to participate in early learning and child care due to the cost, the opportunity to access these programs. The IT upgrades to the system will be included as part of the Early Learning and Child Care funding agreements now and going forward. More details about the current Child Care Subsidy Program can be found in Appendix B
      • Estimated cost for financial services: $30,000
      • Timelines: the first draft of the new subsidy policy changes will be complete by the end of 2023
    • the current child care subsidy IT system will require updates in order to meet the needs of the new system, such as the parent fee reduction changes:
      • estimated cost: $3,000,000 in fiscal year 2022 to 2023
      • timelines: the IT system upgrades using the Early Learning and Child Care Agreement (ELCCA) funding will be complete by the end of 2022

These initiatives are the first step on the road to an average of $10/day care across the province for spaces. This plan will be complete by the end of 2023 for consideration in the next action plan.

Accessibility

Nova Scotia’s plan for space creation

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development closely monitors space and utilization rates for spaces across the province. The data indicates spaces are currently utilized at 78% to 79%. A variety of factors are impacting the utilization rate, such as:

  • family choice: in Nova Scotia some families may prefer that their children are cared for by family, friends, or neighbours, especially in the early ages of 0 to 3
  • covid-19 has changed the way families work. Many parents can work from home which has reduced their need for care. In addition, families may have been laid off or had hours reduced, impacting their need for care and/or their ability to afford care at this time
  • affordability: despite investments in subsidy, child care remains unaffordable for many families

While there are vacancies in child care in Nova Scotia, families have told us as part of the implementation of pre-primary that access to wrap-around care is required for their children, especially in the age ranges of 4 and 5 year olds. Families typically contact the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development if they are unable to find care for their children, and for the last few years, there has been a consistent demand for seamless, wrap-around programming for their children so that they are able to access to high quality programming on site in their school community. This was evident through the evaluation of the Pre-Primary Program. This has been the area with the highest needs that has been identified at the department level.

Nova Scotia, like the Government of Canada, wants to make sure that early learning and child care remains accessible and that child care and early learning is established in communities where families need it.

To meet the federal target of exclusive support for regulated programs, Nova Scotia will ensure that all providers are regulated in a system which includes child care, family home child care, wrap-around/extended day recreation options, and early learning programs for 3 year olds, 4 year olds, and 5 year olds.

Nova Scotia’s approach to space creation is cautious and slow initially to ensure that we will be able to meet targets and truly provide the level of care that families want. It is expected that the reduction in parent fees will allow more families to access spaces, which will increase utilization from 78%. However, based on the latest data, (prior to wave 3), there was space availability across all programs.

Before there is an increase in spaces, Nova Scotia will seek to utilize the spaces that are already in existence and funded.

Once a centre is above 95% of their licensed capacity, the organization will explore the need for additional spaces in the community using existing administration and infrastructure through: increasing infant and toddler spaces, increasing the number of family home child care providers, introducing early learning program for 3 year olds, and increasing access to wrap-around care for children from 3 to 5 years of age.

Nova Scotia will work to reach a 59% coverage rate as part of the next Action Plan for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 to be negotiated with the Government of Canada. This would mean an increase of approximately 2,400 additional spaces, if needed.

An important consideration for Nova Scotia as we enter the journey into a Canada-wide system is that we must be flexible and responsive to the needs of families in the province as they are uncovered. We will be requiring the organization to adjust spaces for age ranges as needed. This will be an important consideration as we work to meet the target of 59% coverage by fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

Nova Scotia is planning early learning and child care spaces as shown on the table below. Space planning for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 to fiscal year 2025 to 2026 is subject to the negotiation of a new action plan with the Government of Canada.

Table 3: Nova Scotia early learning and child care spaces
Age/child care group Current spaces New spaces (2021 to 2023) Spaces March 31, 2023 New spaces (2023 to 2026) Total spaces (2025 to 2026) Total new spaces
Child care – infant 1,051 75 1,126 200 1,326 275
Child care – toddler 4,332 275 4,607 656 5,263 931
Child care - preschool (full time) 6,009 n/a 6,009 n/a 6,009 n/a
Child care - preschool (part time)* 1,156 n/a 500 n/a 500 n/a
Child care - school age 4,132 n/a 3,000 n/a 3,000 n/a
Family home child care (all ages) 1,000 100 1,100 750 1,850 850
3 year old early learning program n/a 2,000 2,000 n/a 2,000 2,000
Wrap-around (3 to 5 years olds) 500 3,500 4,000 4,000 8,000 7,500
Total spaces** 18,180 5,950 22,342 5,606 27,948 11,556

*Currently NS has 1,156 part day preschool spaces. Many will likely transition with the introduction of the 3 year old early learning program. It is estimated that 656 part day preschool spaces can be converted to toddler spaces. 200 will be converted by March 2023 and the remaining 456 will be converted by fiscal year 2025 to 2026.

**Based on community needs assessments, true cost of care and space planning/utilization, Nova Scotia will work toward establishing approximately 2,400 more spaces by March 31, 2026 which would provide 59% coverage using the Government of Canada’s formula.

To support the development and/or conversion of spaces in order to meet community need, Nova Scotia will be creating a capital fund for child care centre upgrades, as well as a capital fund for new centres. This funding will be administered through the provincial organization, in alignment with community consultation around child care needs. In particular, the organization will be mandated to ensure that any capital upgrades or new buildings are fully accessible, free of barriers, and allow for full meaningful participation of all children.

1. Infant and toddler spaces in licensed child care

There were 5,383 infant and toddler spaces in regulated child care as of December 2020. NS will target a 10% increase in these spaces by fiscal 2025 to 2026 and more if required/needed. The growth in these spaces will be under the direction of the organization, and in consultation with families and communities. It is anticipated that by fiscal year 2022 to 2023, NS will increase infant and toddler spaces by 350 spaces.

In years 3 to 5 of the action plan, Nova Scotia will continue to grow infant and toddler spaces where needed. As well, in recognition of the critical importance of these years, NS will develop a program to support exemplary programs to become infant/toddler centres of excellence. This will be a distinction that centres can attain through advanced training and development of staff and by demonstrating that their programs are meeting requirements related to age appropriate environments, active and responsive caregiving, emerging language and literacy, family involvement and cultural continuity, and community outreach/support services. These centres will work with Nova Scotia Early Childhood Development Intervention Services, who has noted an increase in the number of at-risk infants referred to their program and has been working on extending programming to better support infants and reach families as early as possible. In addition, centres with Infant/Toddler Centre of Excellence distinction will develop specific quality targets through the Quality Matter program.

2. Family home child care

There were approximately 1,000 spaces in family home child care as of April 2021:

  1. number of homes (or providers): 159
  2. number of agencies: 14
  3. approximate number of spaces: 1,000

Fees in family home child care range from average of $16.37 to $39.15

NS will target a significant increase in family home child care spaces, resulting in a total of 1,100 family home spaces by fiscal year 2022 to 2023 and 1,850 family home spaces by fiscal year 2025 to 2026. It is Nova Scotia’s intention that new spaces will be targeted for infants/toddlers. As well, NS will work with family home providers to offer irregular hours that will support families who work outside of the typical Monday to Friday schedule.

3. 3 year old early learning opportunity

By 2023, Nova Scotia will welcome 2,000 3 year olds to a free early learning opportunity in schools across the province staffed by trained early childhood educators using Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum framework. These opportunities will provide children and families access to a high quality, inclusive and free early learning experience at an earlier age, enabling families to attend school or work. Priority access to these spaces will be to families who identify as equity seeking (First Nations/Indigenous, African NS, children with disabilities, newcomers, 2SLBGTQ+) and children from vulnerable families (low income, racialized).

4. Programming for 4 year olds

The Pre-Primary Program is a universal early learning program that is provides early learning to all 4 year olds in Nova Scotia, resulting in approximately 8,000 full-time early learning spaces annually.

5. Programming for 5 year olds

All five year olds in Nova Scotia attend grade primary, which provides approximately 8,000 full-time early learning spaces across the province.

6. Wrap around care to create full day programming

In Nova Scotia, children can attend the Pre-Primary Program as early as 3.8 years of age, and with the introduction of the three year old program in some communities, children in public early learning and care programs will be as young as 3 beginning in September 2022. Since the implementation of the Pre-Primary Program, parents have expressed the need for full day options or wrap-around programming. Wrap-around programming is limited across Nova Scotia and can impact parents’ ability to work. Parents in Nova Scotia have been clear in their need for more access to wrap-around programming for children and families. Currently, there are approximately 4,000 before and after school spaces available through regulated child care programs, however the need far exceeds this number. Wrap-around programming is an important part of Nova Scotia’s plan to increase access to full-day early learning spaces and ensure families can participate in affordable programs and are able to work. The expansion of wrap-around programming in the province will be accessible and affordable and utilize existing space in schools.

As the Pre-Primary Program (PPP) began it’s phased-in implementation in 2017, families accessing PPP expressed concerns that many before and after school care programs did not include 4 year olds in their program offerings. The barrier to accessing the Pre-Primary Program was evident through consultation and evaluation of the Pre-Primary Program, in which families in Nova Scotia expressed a need for high quality, affordable, conveniently located before and after programming which would allow them to fully benefit from and access the PPP. Families wanted access to seamless, full day play based programming and it needed to be accessible, affordable, and high quality. That is why Nova Scotia created one of the most innovative responses to address lack of programming in the province, the Nova Scotia Before and After Program (NS-BAP). First piloted in January 2019, the NS-BAP is a made-in Nova Scotia program that is seamless, accessible, responsive to family need, child-centred, play-based with an emphasis on outdoor play and physical movement. The program is also affordable, with costs ranging from $14 to $25 and it is the only program, outside of licensed child care and family home that the province of Nova Scotia has endorsed as being subsidy eligible. Only organizations that the province approved as “recognized providers” can participate in the NS-BAP program. The NS-BAP program is not what many would describe as a typical before and after school programming. In fact, it was intentionally designed to ensure that early childhood development best practice is at the forefront of program planning.

Through the Nova Scotia Before and After Program, the province looked to build on and leverage the expertise and experience of existing licensed child care providers, as well as recognized community-based non-profit recreation and municipal recreation organizations. Utilizing recreation and school based partners, such as recognized non-profits (that is, Boys and Girls Club), allows the program to be offered in communities where there are no licensed child care centres, and where recreation has been delivering quality programming to children and families for years. In Nova Scotia, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), and Boys and Girls Clubs are well-run, well respected, and trusted by families. As such, Nova Scotia has been partnering with these organizations, as well as licensed child care providers, if they are interested, to deliver NS-BAP.

Following consultation with key licensed child care and recreation stakeholders in 2018, the Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) and Communities, Culture and Heritage (CCH) began working together to design a play-based before and after Pre-Primary Program pilot, grounded in best practice in child development intended to create an on-site seamless day for children who attend pre-primary.

Following the success of the pilot, in the 2019 to 2020 school year, the province worked with child care and non-profit stakeholders to expand NS-BAP. The expansion was intended to test out the program in more sites, and to prepare for the potential to align with the federal commitments with respect to before and after care announced during the last election. Ever since the Government of Canada has identified before and after care as a priority area, Nova Scotia has been sharing the benefits of the program with the federal government, with the intention of further expansion once the federal mandate was announced.

It is critical to understand that while children may be registered in different programs over the course of the day, it is not apparent to them. NS-BAP focusses on a seamless transition between programs. Typically, NS-BAP provides programming for 5 to 6 hours per day, depending on family need. Children’s activities and work continues as their before program ends and the early program begins, and also at the end of the day. Ensuring seamless transitions is one of the innovative approaches (and a hallmark of quality) of the program and works toward the best outcomes for young children and their families in NS.

Providers (licensed child care and recognized non-profit and municipal recreation) are monitored by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and are required to follow program and delivery standards based on physical literacy, movement, and outdoor play. There is mandatory training provided to all staff, which is required to meet hiring criteria as set out in the standards. When Nova Scotia creates more wrap-around programming for families, ECEs working in early learning programs and child care staff will be offered the opportunity to deliver the service before external partners are considered, which was the same process that was used in the pilot phase. Information about the current NS-BAP program year can be found in appendix C and information on NS-BAP standards and monitoring can be found in appendix D.

Nova Scotia believes that access to wrap-around programming is a key component of universal child care and is essential to Nova Scotia families. NS-BAP is a unique, home-grown, innovative program that can meet the needs of children and families across the province (see overview of NS-BAP in the section Nova Scotia’s plan for space creation). As such, Nova Scotia will expand this program and create 3,500 wrap around full-day spaces which will be developed to fully respond to family need as understood through the provincial organization survey. Through the organization, families will be surveyed to better understand specific community needs. One of the key benefits of a provincial organization is the flexibility and nimbleness in which they will be able to respond to family needs. Wrap-around programs will be expected to respond to these needs as identified within each specific community. For example, currently the majority of NS-BAP offers programming only during the school year, however going forward, if families need care options during the summer, the organization will address that need through a variety of options:

  1. if there is a child care centre in the community, they will be required to accommodate the families
  2. the organization can work with the Regional Centres of Education and wrap-around providers to explore options for delivering a program in the school building
  3. the organization can work with family home child care to find a provider to offer care in the summer

Nova Scotia will expand this program and create 3,500 wrap-around spaces which, when combined with the 500 current NS-BAP sites will result in 4,000 full-day spaces by fiscal year 2022 to 2023.

Spaces will be targeted to 3, 4, and 5 year olds, but will be available to older children if they can be accommodated. This falls within the criteria of the Government of Canada, which said priority must be 0 to 5 year olds.

The average fee for before and after care in the NS-BAP is $20/day a day. It is anticipated that wrap-around spaces will be offered at $10/day beginning September 1, 2022. Child Care subsidy will be available for those unable to pay $10/day, which will allow families to pay less than $10/day, based on eligibility.

Space targets for all early learning programs

Through all of the initiatives described above, NS anticipates meeting 59% coverage rate target by March 31, 2026, if needed.

Target:

  • increase the net number of regulated spaces for children age 0 to 5 by at least 4,000 full-time equivalent spaces by the end of fiscal year 2022 to 2023
  • based on community needs assessments, true cost of care and space planning/utilization, Nova Scotia will work toward establishing approximately 2,400 more spaces by March 31, 2026 which would provide 59% coverage using the Government of Canada’s formula

Quality

High quality early learning and child care programs have a significant impact on the trajectory of young children. As such, it is critical that as Nova Scotia expands opportunities for children to access these programs, quality must be at the forefront.

Supporting and advancing high quality early learning and child care programs is about more than just a stand alone program. Therefore, while a large component of this section is focused on Nova Scotia’s Quality Matters program, NS will continue to support other initiatives that contribute to quality: trained and engaged early childhood educators, welcoming and inclusive spaces for all children, programming that is reflective of the needs/interests/desires of the children it serves and has equity, inclusion and diversity principles embedded in all aspects of the program.

The following initiatives are intended to impact the quality of Nova Scotia’ early learning and child care system.

Quality matters in licensed child care

Quality Matters (QM) is a provincially funded evidence-based quality assessment initiative used to determine eligibility for funding for licensed child care centres that was implemented in 2018 in all funded child care centres. It is based on research regarding the importance of quality early childhood education experiences for children and informed by international practices to support quality improvements in regulated child care centres. QM evaluates a centre’s success in meeting specific goals with respect to the following components:

  • compliance with provisions of Nova Scotia’s Early Learning and Child Care Act, Early Learning and Child Care Regulations, policies, and standards
  • accountability for provincial funding, including compliance with the terms and conditions of the Funding Agreement
  • program quality in the 4 Quality Matters elements:
    • leadership: professional, pedagogical, and administrative
    • staffing: qualifications, professional development, human resources, and compensation
    • learning environments: high quality and inclusive
    • relationships: interactions and partnerships with children, parents and families, staff, other professionals, and the community

All centres participating in Quality Matters are rated annually. The rating reflects performance in the Compliance and Accountability components of Quality Matters and is used to assess continuous program quality and ongoing grant eligibility for provincial grant funding.

An evaluation of the “program quality” component of Quality Matters was conducted in collaboration with the Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre (ECCRC) at Mount Saint Vincent University. The evaluation was designed to understand QM in implementation as a process to inform the design, application and implementation of QM as a means toward continuous quality improvement (CQI) across Nova Scotia. The evaluation identified the following recommendations to improve the QM process:

  1. fillable portable document format (PDF) for all QM documentation
  2. clarify QM process through easy, step-by-step guide
  3. modify quality improvement plan chart, using language consistent to that of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals
  4. clarify expectations and provide exemplar charts and goals
  5. implement a post-goal reflection template
  6. integrate and align future initiatives
  7. provide opportunities to network and share success

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is currently implementing the recommendations from the QM evaluation and has been awaiting the framework for a Canada-wide system to advance this ambitious quality agenda. By 2023, Nova Scotia will have completed all the recommendations as identified in the evaluation.

Nova Scotia will then amend the current Quality Matters program to further engage and support child care centres in implementing quality practice. Quality Matters is grounded in the understanding that quality is not a “desired state” but is continuously evolving. As the sector evolves and becomes a more professionally recognized body, with stricter quality measures and outcomes, they will be better equipped to build on the success of their current quality goals and strive for further continuous quality improvement.

To meet the federal commitment to quality beyond licensed child care, beginning in 2022 Nova Scotia will use Quality Matters as the overarching approach to quality for all early learning and child care programs. As such, all programs that are part of the early learning and child care system in NS will be required to participate in a Quality Matters Program.

To accomplish this, NS will continue to refine the approach used in licensed child care programs and develop accompanying Quality Matters programs for family home child care, before and after programs and school based early learning programs. This will be the first time in the history of early learning and child care in Nova Scotia that all programs being delivered will participate in a consistent quality standards program. This will have positive impacts for children, staff, families and programs across Nova Scotia.

Quality matters in Nova Scotia’s early learning and child care system
QM in licensed child care

Under the provincial organization, all child care centres will be required to participate in the Quality Matters program. To ensure the program is meeting its intended outcomes, in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Nova Scotia will engage an external evaluator to determine if Quality Matters is meeting the medium-term objectives as outlined in the QM Logic Model:

  1. increased number of centres meeting compliance standards
  2. increased use of self-assessment summary and quality improvement plans to inform centre practices
  3. changes in practices related to Quality Matter elements (leadership, staffing, learning environments, and relationships)

Also in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, NS will begin sharing the results of each centres Quality Matters rating online, to support transparency and accountability, as well as information for families.

Currently all provincially funded centres (304 of 334) participate in QM. Under the provincial organization, all licensed child care centres will participate in QM.

QM in family home child care

Nova Scotia will create a Quality Matters in Family Home Child Care Program that reflects the evidence based aspects of quality applicable to the smaller settings of homes.

QM in the school based early learning program for 3 year olds/pre-primary

Nova Scotia has been working with the Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre to complete a scoping review of what is known about high quality early childhood programming in publicly funded, school-based settings. Based on the results of this internal review, Nova Scotia will create a Quality Matters in school based early learning programs for 3 and 4 year olds.

QM in the wrap-around program

Currently, all NS-BAP providers are required to participate in a continuous quality improvement process based on reflective practice. Through this process, programs complete a self-assessment which reflects on successes, challenges and areas of potential improvement and then develop a program improvement plan based on the self-assessment. A Regional Support Team (RST) comprised of staff from the Regional Centres of Education, Early Childhood Education Consultants, and Regional Physical Activity Consultants support providers through this process by helping NS-BAP providers to work through the self-assessment, helping providers identify goals through the program improvement plan, providing feedback on quality improvement initiatives and providing resources if needed. If the RST identifies any issues or concerns, they will work with the NS-BAP providers to ensure an action plan is in place to address the concern. As NS-BAP is a new initiative, this process has been evolving and improving over the last 2 years to ensure NS-BAP is delivery high quality programming that meets family needs.

Nova Scotia will build on the success of this quality enhancement and monitoring process and adapt the Quality Matters program for use in wrap-around programming.

Targets (March 31, 2023):

  • all licensed child care centres will participate in the Quality Matters in child care program
  • NS will complete an evaluation of the Quality Matters in child care program
  • NS will share results of Quality Matters in child care publicly
  • NS will create the Quality Matters in Family Home child care program
  • NS will create the Quality Matters in Wrap-Around Programs
  • NS will create the Quality Matters in school based early learning programs

Estimated cost: $400,000 ($200,000 in 2022 and $200,000 in 2023)

Compensation of early childhood educators

Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are the backbone of a high quality early learning and child care system and they deserve a compensation framework that reflects the important role they play in the growth and development of young children. In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is using ELCCA workforce funding to develop a compensation framework that will reflect ECEs education, speciality training, and years of work experience. ELCCA workforce funding in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 is also being used for numerous initiatives supporting students in their ECE studies. There are bursaries supporting full time students with enhanced bursaries for those from equity seeking populations. As well, the upskilling initiatives which support those working in child care to get their diploma will ensure that those from equity seeking populations are prioritized. Prioritizing these populations in all of our initiatives is critical to ensure a diverse workforce that is representative of the families that NS is serving in early learning and child care.

This will be achieved by contracting an early childhood educator labour force adjustment analysis specific to the compensation of ECEs in licensed child care. The consultant will develop compensation standards for entry and ongoing wages and benefits for professional responsibilities, including a wage grid/pay scales for all levels (determined through the scope of practice/education requirements/standards and competencies), using living wage/self-sufficiency standards as a minimum. Consideration will be given to strategies/incentives tied to advanced practitioner programs, professional development, and mentoring.

The new compensation framework will go into effect by the end of 2022.

Targets:

  • implement a new wage grid for ECEs in regulated settings by the end of 2022. ECE’s in Nova Scotia will be receiving the compensation identified in a new provincial compensation framework at that time

Estimated costs:

  • information from the compensation framework is required in order to fully understand costs, however it is estimated at approximately $35 million per year starting in 2023 and increasing annually at 1.5%, plus the costs of benefits. Nova Scotia will share the final compensation framework and final plan for wages and benefits with the Government of Canada once complete. The province will allocate $8.75 million in fiscal year 2021 to 2022 and $35 million in fiscal year 2022 to 2023
Education levels of early learning and child care staff

NS has made significant progress in increasing the number of staff with early childhood education training. Despite this progress, more work is needed to ensure that Nova Scotia is able to achieve its vision related to highly educated ECEs.

Currently, a significant portion of staff in early learning and child care programs are at an untrained/entry level or level 1 classification (minimally trained). In other words, approximately 65% of staff have at least a diploma level of education, while 35% have less than a diploma level of education.

Table 4: Regulated child care staffing in funded centres by classification (December 2020)
Classification level Description of classification Number
Untrained No training 281
Entry Completion of Orientation for staff-working in licensed child care facilities 286
Level 1 Completion of orientation for child care staff and level 1 course work and guided workplace experience 508
Level 2 Completion of:
  1. an approved college program in early childhood education
  2. successful completion of the recognition of prior learning and assessment program
1,145
School-age Completion of orientation training and a bachelor’s degree, or a program at a post-secondary institution recognized by the Director, that qualifies a person to plan and deliver developmentally appropriate programming for school-age children 59
Level 3 Completion of the following:
  1. a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education
  2. a bachelor’s degree in an area of study that qualifies a person to plan and deliver early childhood programming for children, birth to 12 years of age from a post-secondary institution approved by the Department
  3. a diploma in early childhood education from a program approved by the Department and completion of a bachelor’s degree program in any discipline from a postsecondary institution recognized by the Department
281
Total staff n/a 2,560
Table 5: Pre-primary staffing as of February 15, 2021
Training level Number of FTEs
FTE with ECE diploma or degree 776.5
FTE with some ECE training/experience* 115.5
Total FTEs 892

*FTEs with some training/experience may be filing the role of a support ECE or a third staff in a learning environment (for a period of time), with a number undertaking courses towards completing a diploma in ECE.

With support from the Government of Canada through the 2017 to 2020 Canada-NS Early Learning and Child Care Agreement and the 2020 to 2021 extension, the province has increased and supported the early childhood educator workforce through the following initiatives:

  • 200 new seats for 2 years were added in the diploma in early childhood education program at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) to eliminate the waitlist
  • 60 seats were funded for Mi’kmaq/Indigenous, Black/African Nova Scotians and Francophone/Acadian individuals working in regulated child care and pre-primary to receive training in early childhood education to meet the level 1 classification
  • 251 individuals working in regulated child care and pre-primary were funded to receive training to meet the level 1 classification. With a level 1 classification, individuals increase their earning potential from approximately minimum wage to at least $15/hour
  • 3 student cohorts enrolled in diploma in early childhood education programs in private career colleges received tuition support to reduce the cost of their tuition
  • 93 individuals from underrepresented populations were funded to complete a diploma in early childhood education (Mi’kmaq/Indigenous; Black/African Nova Scotians; Francophone/Acadian; Newcomer)
  • 13 Mi’kmaq early childhood educators working in child care in their communities were funded to complete their diploma in early childhood education through a work and learn pilot with the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), which allowed them to maintain their employment while pursuing a diploma
  • 27 Black/African Nova Scotians were funded to enroll in a new Africentric Diploma in Early Childhood Education program through the NSCC. Funding included the cost of full tuition and books for the duration of the program

In 2021, Nova Scotia developed an early childhood education workforce strategy that outlines the province's vision for a strong, qualified, and stable workforce in early learning and child care now and in the future. The workforce strategy is grounded in the belief that well qualified early childhood educators are key to the planning and delivery of quality and inclusive early learning and child care programs. It is a fundamental principle acknowledged by government and early childhood educators themselves, that ECEs are valued for the role they play in supporting and educating young children and are professionally recognized, highly skilled, and committed to lifelong learning.

Funding from the 2021 to 2022 ELCC workforce agreement will support Nova Scotia’s vision for the ECE workforce by addressing key issues within their current work environment:

  • diversity, equity, and inclusion is a key aspect of quality in early learning and child care. It is important that not only are all children and families welcome in these programs, but that early childhood educators reflect the diversity of Nova Scotians themselves. The workforce strategy provides opportunities for under-represented groups to pursue a diploma in early childhood education. This includes opportunities specifically targeted to Black/African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq/Indigenous, persons with disabilities, Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex Plus (2SLGBTI+), Francophone/Acadian, and newcomer/immigrant populations. Information about these initiatives can be found below.
  • there are almost 1,000 staff working in early learning and child care who do not have a diploma in early childhood education. The Poverty Reduction Strategy report on Nova Scotia identified a number of barriers to accessing education including upfront payment of tuition, access to technology, transportation, and child care. The proposed workforce strategy recognizes that those employed in early learning and child care who do not have a diploma and want to pursue this, should be able to have at long-term early childhood education career trajectory, with career advancement opportunities and specialized education opportunities. The strategy includes upskilling opportunities to support currently employed staff in accessing accelerated education programs, enabling them to receive their diploma sooner while maintaining employment
  • early childhood educators deserve professional recognition for the important work that they do. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Education (EECD) will take a systematic approach, by re-structuring and creating the conditions needed to develop and grow the profession. Professional recognition leads to quality early learning and child care environments that support and advance children’s optimal growth and development province-wide. This work includes the introduction of a certification process for early childhood educators in the province, and a compensation framework that will reflect education, speciality training, and years of work experience

One of Nova Scotia’s main objectives for ELCCA workforce funding is to ensure that those currently working in early learning and child care and Pre-Primary Programs continue to do so. Nova Scotia believes that these individuals are invested and committed to a career in early childhood education and care, and supporting them to get their academic credentials will go a long way to ensuring they continue to work in the field and see a long-term career path as an ECE in Nova Scotia.

As of December 2020, there were over 600 individuals employed in funded licensed child care programs in Nova Scotia with no training or entry level training, and 500 with a level 1 classification. Staff classified at level 1 have completed an orientation, three courses (child development, behaviour guidance, and programming for young children), and 2 guided workplace experiences.

In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, Nova Scotia will use ELCC workforce and ELCCA funding to increase the number of staff working in early learning and child care programs with a degree and/or diploma through the following initiatives:

1. accelerated diploma for those working with some training

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will partner with 3 training institutions to offer over 500 staff working in child care and pre-primary an opportunity to take an accelerated ECE diploma program. This program will be open to ECEs from across Nova Scotia and includes designated spaces for those who self- identify as equity seeking individuals, such as, but not limited to newcomers, Black/African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq/ Indigenous, Francophone/Acadians, and persons with disabilities

2. diploma program for untrained ECE staff

This initiative will provide individuals working in child care and Pre-primary who do not have any ECE training with an opportunity to pursue an ECE diploma. Using an Expression of Interest process, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will be inviting approved ECE training institutions in the province to submit innovative plans to offer an ECE diploma program to at least 25 untrained staff that are currently working in early learning and child care. This custom program will support those with a desire to advance their career in early childhood education but without the necessary formal academic credentials, the opportunity to earn a diploma

3. support for full time ECE students

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will use ELCCA Workforce funding to target supports to full time students through a tuition assistance program for up to 300 students who are enrolled in either a full time ECE diploma program at any of Nova Scotia’s 5 ECE diploma training institutions, or a degree from Mount Saint Vincent with a focus on early childhood education

In addition, to support Nova Scotia’s focus on the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce, students in the following 6 identified groups will be eligible for additional tuition assistance:

  • Black / African Nova Scotian
  • Acadian/Francophone
  • Mi’kmaq/Indigenous
  • persons with disabilities and persons needing enhanced or individual supports
  • two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (2SLGBTQ+)
  • newcomer

4. Advanced Practitioner Program:

The Advanced Practitioner Program (APP) in Early Childhood Education will bring together academics, researchers, government, and the early learning sector to raise the bar of quality early childhood education in Nova Scotia by creating 4 post-diploma certification programs for early childhood educators. This program will be rigorous, including course work and practical experience, and will allow ECEs to expand their knowledge and strengthen their practice in specialty areas which will in turn support the delivery of exceptional quality experiences for children. Each post diploma certificate will have the lens of supporting children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports, as well as inclusion and diversity. Successful completion of an APP certificate will be reflected on the ECE compensation framework

Funding will be used to develop 4 post diploma in-service certificate programs, for example infant/toddler specialization, and provide bursaries for up to 100 students

Target: by March 31, 2023, 70% of staff in in licensed child care and early learning programs will have at least a diploma level of education.

Estimated cost: Nova Scotia will allocate ELCCA funding in 2023, 2024, and 2025 for workforce development initiatives similar to the ones noted above for on-going enhancements and funding of training opportunities for ECEs. NS does not anticipate using Canada-wide funding for workforce training in the 2021 to 2023 action plan.

Professional development

Nova Scotia currently supports the professional development of staff in early learning and child care programs on topics related to provincial priorities, such as the Early Learning Curriculum Framework. In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, ELCC workforce funds are being used to provide enhancements to the Early Learning Curriculum Framework and Educators’ Guide, which has been adapted to be culturally responsive and reflect Nova Scotia’s vision for an early learning and child care system based in inclusion, diversity, and equity. As well, ELCC workforce funds will be used to develop and offer professional development related to the updated Early Learning Curriculum Framework, with learning focused on culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion in early learning and child care.

In addition, through the successful work on the Nova Scotia Before and After Program, developed in collaboration with recreation colleagues at the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development  has recognized the need for the Early Learning Curriculum Framework to include stronger components related to outdoor play. As such, the revised document will reflect the recognition of the importance of outdoor play for young children. Accompanying professional development will be developed for early learning program staff.

As we work toward creating the highest quality early childhood education and care environments in the country, we must ensure that in addition to excellent education and compensation, ECEs are supported by access to high quality professional learning. Such opportunities will ensure that they are able to fill gaps in knowledge, and that they are exposed to emerging best practices based on the most current research.

As such, Nova Scotia is working with a consultant to define and develop a model that will support professional development for ECEs in the future. This work involves a program review of the provision of professional development for early childhood educators and includes:

  • exploration of the current state, gaps, and opportunities associated with all aspects of the current program model
  • identification of options for the provision of professional development for early childhood educators
  • recommendation of a program model and governance structure for the provision of professional development for early childhood educators that is efficient (utilization of resources and funding), accountable, and responsive to the evolving needs of the workforce and supports government key priority areas

Quality targets (March 31, 2023):

  • NS will develop Professional Development related to culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion in early learning and child care for all providers in early learning and child care in NS
  • NS will develop Professional Development training related to outdoor play for regulated and school based early learning programs
  • NS will increase professional development spending by 10% over fiscal year 2020 to 2021 spending

Estimated cost: Nova Scotia will allocate ELCCA in 2023, 2024, and 2025 to increase funding for professional development initiatives for ECEs. NS does not anticipate using Canada-wide funding for workforce training in the 2021 to 2023 action plan for professional development.

Inclusion

A universal approach means all children are welcome in their communities. All children belong in early learning and child care programs. All children are welcome in early learning and child care programs. These are tenant principals in Nova Scotia’s early learning and child care system.

One of the greatest successes of the Pre-Primary Program has been that children who would not typically access child care programs, due to the high costs or limited availability, are welcomed into an early learning program. Through PPP, not only are children accessing high quality programs, but children with additional support needs are being identified and provided with the supports necessary to help them and their families succeed in their programs, which leads to greater success in the school system. As such, it is anticipated that through our new universal early learning and child care system, and when spaces are as low as $5/day for families who need it, Nova Scotia will continue to welcome more children into early learning programs and support children with additional needs.

In Nova Scotia, children with disabilities or those needing enhanced supports can participate in all the early learning programs. There are no additional fees that families must pay for their children with disabilities or those needing enhanced supports. With respect to physical accessibility, several years ago, NS provided child care operators with grants to promote accessibility of child care centres. All new builds are required to meet building codes regarding accessibility.

Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Directorate, through the Department of Justice, is responsible for administering the Accessibility Act and advancing disability issues within government. The Accessibility Directorate is currently developing accessibility standards that will focus on education (including early learning and care), employment, and the built environment, among others. The early learning and care system in Nova Scotia will be required, through regulation, to adhere to these standards, once finalized.

The following describe initiatives that Nova Scotia has implemented to support the provision of inclusive programming in early learning programs (licensed child care, family home child care, 3 year old early learning program and PPP, and the Nova Scotia Before and After Program). Moving forward, these initiatives will help support children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports, Indigenous children, Black and other racialized children, children of newcomers, and official language minorities. In addition, any child care capital upgrades or new buildings will be fully accessible, free of barriers, and allow for full meaningful participation of all children (see section on Accessibility). Supports will also be made available to ECEs who self- identify as equity seeking individuals, such as, but not limited to, newcomers, Black/African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq/ Indigenous, Francophone/Acadians, and persons with disabilities (see section on Quality). These initiatives will reinforce other federal ELCC funding to help ensure that all components of the Early Learning Curriculum Framework are built from a foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion and support broader ECE learning focused on culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion in early learning and child care.

Inclusion programming in NS early learning and child care programs
Inclusion support grant

The Inclusion Support Grant (ISG) which was introduced in 2018 to replace the Supported Child Care Grant, uses a combination of provincial and federal funding to support licensed child care centres in their commitment to build capacity to provide inclusive programming for children with complex needs and from diverse cultural backgrounds. Funding is intended to improve access, participation and supports, for example, enhanced staffing and improved program supports (e.g. professional development, policy development) to impact developmental, social and physical inclusion for vulnerable, and/or low-income children who may require specialized supports, when necessary.

The Inclusion Support Grant (ISG) provides funding to assist in the enhancement of existing inclusive child care programs for young children. Funding is based on the following calculation:

  • ISG = 10% x licensed capacity x $15 x operating days

Eligible centres apply for ISG funding. Currently, only 263 of the 334 centres have applied for, and are in receipt of ISG.

Under the provincial organization, all licensed child care centres will participate in the Inclusion Support Grant and will be required to provide data with respect to children in their centres with complex needs. This is data that is currently not available, and which will be critical to developing a more comprehensive funding formula to support child care centres and ensuring that centres have the necessary resources to meet the diverse needs of children in their programs.

Pyramid model

In March 2016, consultation with the child care sector identified the need for:

  • a greater emphasis on supporting infant and toddler social and emotional learning
  • addressing programming for children with diverse and special needs
  • addressing inconsistencies in quality of programming across the province

In response, NS implemented the Pyramid Model for Promoting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children (Pyramid Model) in Fall 2018, using funding from the Nova Scotia – Canada Early Learning and Child Care Agreement (ELCCA). The Pyramid Model focuses on establishing the environments and building relationships required to intentionally teach children social emotional skills that will promote well-being, success in school and life. The foundation of the Pyramid Model is the systems and policies necessary to ensure child care centers are able to adopt and sustain the evidence-based practices.

The Pyramid Model framework ensures children benefit from evidence-based practices that support social and emotional development. The Pyramid Model is an evidenced-based, positive behaviour support (PBS) framework for the early years to promote social and emotional development and address challenging behaviours. The Pyramid Model organizes evidence-based practices that include:

  • universal promotion practices for all children
  • practices for children who need targeted social-emotional supports
  • supports for children demonstrating persistent challenging behaviour

Implementing the Pyramid Model will build staff, administrators and parent’s ability in supporting and enhancing children’s development and skills.

Through the 2017 to 2020 ELCCA, Nova Scotia introduced the Pyramid Model for Promoting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children, which provides a framework of evidence-based practices for promoting social emotional and behavioural development. This initiative was specifically developed for use in early learning and child care environments. Pyramid Model Coaches began implementation of the first cohort in December 2018, working with 22 child care centres to implement the Pyramid Model Program. Currently, there are 20 implementation sites engaged in the Pyramid Model Programs first Cohort. It can take 2 to 5 years for a site to attain program-wide implementation of the Pyramid Model.

In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, 6 Pyramid Model sites will reach program-wide implementation, which ensures that programs are attending to both the implementation of evidence-based practices and the development of the infrastructure to support the durable implementation of those practices. It is anticipated that of the 6 sites that reach program-wide implementation, 1 site will reach demonstration level. This site will achieve program-wide fidelity of implementation of Pyramid Model practices, with practices that are well-integrated into the repertoire of all educators and routinely and effectively supported by continued professional development and administrative support. The Pyramid Model demonstration site will serve as an exemplar of the Pyramid Model in action.

Also in fiscal year 2021 to 2022, Nova Scotia will begin the Pyramid Model implementation process in second cohort of 10 new child care sites, including 5 lab school sites. Lab schools serve as a model of educational practice for students in post-secondary early childhood education training programs. Implementing the Pyramid Model in these sites is critically important, as it introduces a new generation of students to Pyramid Model principles and practices.

Concurrently to licensed child care, the Pre-Primary Program began implementation of the Pyramid Model in September 2019 in 33 pre-primary sites. In September 2020, an additional 23 pre-primary sites were added, resulting in 45 schools participating in Pyramid Model implementation.

An evaluation framework has been developed and led by Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood: Diversity and Transitions at the Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU).

Nova Scotia intends to fully implement the Pyramid Model in every licensed child care centre, 3 year old early learning program and Pre-Primary Program across the province. The implementation will take a number of years. In the coming year, NS will work with the Pyramid Model consortium to collaborate on the implementation model in family home child care. Nova Scotia will also offer additional training to NS-BAP staff who are offering programming in sites where the Pyramid Model is being implemented, to ensure that the universal promotion practices and targeted socio-emotional support is consistent for children throughout the day, whether they are in the 3 year old early learning program, the Pre-Primary Program, or the Nova Scotia Before and After Program.

Nova Scotia early childhood development intervention services

Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (ECDIS) provides province-wide specialized services to families of young children (birth to school entry), who either have a biological risk for or a diagnosis of developmental delay. ECDIS is fully funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The program served 3,022 children and families in fiscal year 2020 to 2021 through the provision of 4 core services:

  • child development support
  • case coordination and partnerships
  • family support & capacity
  • building transition support

Funds from the previous bilateral agreement have enabled the province to enhance Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (ECDIS) by adding 7 developmental interventionists who are serving more Acadian and Francophone, African Nova Scotian, and Indigenous communities. Since hiring these staff, ECDIS continues to see growth in the number of children from under served communities who are accessing intervention services, providing them with support to successfully transition and integrate into regulated child care, pre-primary, and school.

ECDIS data provincial overview of families served (March 2021):

  • Acadian/Francophone: 96
  • African/African Nova Scotian: 79
  • new immigrants: 57
  • First Nations/Inuit: 258

Nova Scotia will continue to support ECDIS in responding to family needs. It is anticipated that through the growth of child care spaces and the introduction of the 3 year old early learning program, the number of referrals made and children served by ECDIS will continue to grow. Nova Scotia will ensure that funding to ECDIS will increase in alignment with the number of early learning and child care spaces in the province.

Nova Scotia early learning curriculum framework

ELCCA funding is being used to enhance Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework and Educators’ Guide. The changes will ensure that all components of the Early Learning Curriculum Framework are built from a foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion. To support this priority, ELCC workforce funds will be used to develop and offer professional development related to the updated Early Learning Curriculum Framework, with learning focused on culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion in early learning and child care. This review and enhancement will also be reflected in other provincial government early learning and child care initiatives such as the Quality Matters program.

Nova Scotia’s 3 year old early learning program

Priority access for 3 year olds in the early learning program will be given to families who identify as equity seeking (Indigenous, African NS, children with disabilities, newcomers, Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Plus (2SLBGTQ+)) and children from vulnerable families (low income, racialized).

Space planning for inclusion

Nova Scotia fully understands and supports the need to ensure that space planning reflects the diversity of Nova Scotia and plans for vulnerable children and families. This approach needs to ensure that children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports, Indigenous children, Black and other racialized children, children of newcomers, and official language minorities are prioritized in the decision-making process.

Nova Scotia will work with communities and families to better understand how to systemically address the issues that have kept them from child care and that help them to feel safe, welcome and have a sense of belonging. NS will support families and commit to systemic change to create more inclusive and culturally responsive early learning and child care programs and environments. Nova Scotia will work to understand the need for child care, and to ensure that programming is meeting the needs of diverse and/or vulnerable children and families. The central organization will be responsible for delivering a community needs assessment to determine where spaces are need, and to ensure that all spaces are inclusive and culturally responsive.

Inclusion data

Nova Scotia will be reviewing the data needs and gaps to identify a plan to better track and monitoring data with respect to diversity and inclusion. By March 31, 2023, licensed child care centres under the provincial organization will have requirements for tracking this data and the province will develop a plan to ensure that data from all early learning and child care programs is consistent and can be used to inform policy and planning decisions.

Indigenous early learning and child care

To support Nova Scotia’s First Nations/Indigenous communities right to self-governance and self determination, Nova Scotia will work in collaboration with First Nations and other relevant partners (federal partners and provincial partners) toward a plan to ensure that First Nations/Indigenous children in Nova Scotia will have access to affordable, high-quality and culturally responsive ELCC.

Inclusion targets (March 31, 2023):

  • NS will have consistent baseline data with respect to the number of children in all early learning and child care programs regarding:
    • self-identified ancestry information
    • diagnosed special need/participation in ECDIS
    • number of referrals made to services
  • all licensed child care centres will access Inclusion Support Grant funding
  • NS will increase participation rate of children on ECDIS caseload in early learning and child care programs to 50% from the current rate of 42%
  • NS will create a plan for implementation of Pyramid Model in family home child care
  • NS will develop enhanced Social Emotional development/learning training for NS-BAP programs operating in a Pyramid Model site
  • Nova Scotia will increase funding to ECDIS by 5% to ensure they are able to meet the needs anticipated through the growth in early learning and child care spaces
  • Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework and Educators’ Guide will be updated to ensure the documents are culturally responsive and reflect Nova Scotia’s vision for a child care system based in inclusion, diversity, and equity
  • in collaboration with First Nations and other relevant partners (federal and provincial) work toward a plan to ensure that First Nations/Indigenous children in Nova Scotia will have access to affordable, high-quality and culturally responsive ELCC

Data and reporting

Nova Scotia’s plan to improve data management

The current IT grant management and tracking system was developed on a platform that has not been updated in several years. The strategic direction of the Nova Scotia government, outlined via the priorities in this action plan, will require an updated and integrated system that will allow the Province to track and measure progress through the increased ability to collect and analyze data, and prepare reports. In addition, it will provide new opportunities to the Province for planning purposes, with access to integrated information across multiple program areas.

Nova Scotia is currently working with an IT firm to develop a new grant management and tracking system, which will allow better tracking, monitoring, and reporting of data related to early learning and child care.

The new grant management and tracking system will be used by the provincial organization managing children care, as they will act as a main hub for child care centre data in Nova Scotia. Data related to wrap-around programs, the 3 year old early learning program, Pre-primary, and Primary will be managed and tracked by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Data related to child care centres and family home child care will be managed and tracked through the provincial organization.

The hub of child care centre data

The provincial organization managing child care will be responsible for developing a data management system that can produce real-time information and metrics on the families who want care, families who are accessing care, and the programs/staff providing it. This will allow NS to develop a truly agile and nimble child care system that supports Nova Scotia families.

As part of this system, the organization will administer community need surveys, to monitor and respond to family need. This will also enable the province to have access to disaggregated data to ensure that equity seeking families are accessing care in their own community, and if not, will respond to their needs.

Through this process, the organization can respond to community demand by increasing the number of spaces available in any area where need exists, based on evidence and data. For example, if Nova Scotia discovers that due to a reduction in fees more toddler spaces or infant care is required, we will work with the organization to respond as soon as possible. Nova Scotia remains committed to being flexible and nimble in order to respond to family need. Like the Government of Canada, the province of Nova Scotia wants to ensure access for families, when and where they need, as a fundamental principle of Nova Scotia’s plan for Canada-wide accessible child care. Nova Scotia does not want to see a scenario where waitlists for care become an issue, and therefore, remain committed to:

  • giving the organization the mandate and responsibility to meet the needs for care in community when they need it, ensuring that waitlists do not become an issue for families
  • monitoring the spaces offered at each child care centre and family home provider that is part of the Canada-wide system to match it with the need in community. This will be the first time this has happened in Nova Scotia; each centre/home will be examined with the lens of community/family need. For example, if a centre has 16 pre-school spaces with half the spots filled and a full infant room with additional families in need of infant spaces, the organization will add more infant spaces and reduce pre-school spaces. This is part of the “nimble and flexible” approach that will be used to ensure that we are creating the type of spaces families need
  • consulting with families on need and family centred policies. It is expected that once Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada announce the plan for Canada-wide, the organization will begin consulting with families on the types of care they want/need and the family-friendly policies they need. It is important that families are consulted after the Canada-wide announcement is signed because they will need a level of re-assurance that Nova Scotia’s new early learning and child care system is changing for the better to suit their needs. Nova Scotia families will need an opportunity to view and understand the transformative direction of the plan in order to provide advice, recommendations and guidance to make sure it suits their needs. Nova Scotia expects to do a broad consultation with families in late 2021 and early 2022

The approach to creating additional spaces will be multi year and will rely on the organization to monitor areas of greatest need in the province. The organization will establish a process for an annual community needs assessment, the following data sources will in included in the assessment:

  • family-first voice surveys
  • utilization rates of early learning and care
  • community infrastructure (that is, school buildings)
  • existing data sources including the census reports, poverty rates, and Early Developmental Instrument (EDI), which is a measurement overall developmental health collected at age 5
  • linkage to ECDIS data
  • other data sources that emerge through consultation and implementation
Data analysis and reporting plan

Nova Scotia will make available financial and administrative data (including micro-data) needed to monitor progress in establishing the Canada-wide system. Nova Scotia will ensure the data and reporting expectations from the Terms Sheet, provided by the Government of Canada, are built into all data and reporting.

Nova Scotia will report to the Government of Canada when the fee reduction target has been implemented by the end of 2022.

Beginning in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, Nova Scotia will conduct an annual census of child care providers and will share the results, including microdata, with the federal government.

Nova Scotia will provide information on any consultation that has taken place, including a description of consultation processes, the type of groups consulted and stakeholder feedback. As well, Nova Scotia will provide results of evaluation activities undertaken in the Fiscal year, as available.

Table 6: Indicators and targets to be utilized to track and report on results
Priority area Action Indicators Target
Affordability Parent fee reduction Average fee reduction 50% fee reduction by the end of 2022
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of new early learning and child care spaces Increase the net number of spaces for children age 0 to 5 by at least 4,000 (Note 1)
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of infant spaces 75 new infant spaces
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of toddler spaces 275 new/converted toddler spaces
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of 3 year old early learning spaces in public buildings 2,000 3 year old spaces
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of family home child care spaces 100 family home spaces of multiple ages (0 to 5)
Accessibility Increase number of early learning and child care spaces Number of wrap-around spaces 3,500 wrap-around spaces
Quality Quality Matters Number of licensed child care centres participating in the Quality Matters program All licensed centres will participate in the Quality Matters program
Quality Quality Matters Completion of the evaluation of the Quality Matters in child care program Complete an evaluation of the Quality Matters in child care program
Quality Quality Matters Shared results of Quality Matters in child care Share results of Quality Matters in child care publicly
Quality Quality Matters Development of Quality Matters in family home child care program Create the Quality Matters in family home child care program
Quality Quality Matters Development of Quality Matters in wrap around program Create the Quality Matters in wrap around programs
Quality Quality Matters Development of Quality Matters in schools based early learning programs Create the Quality Matters in school based early learning programs
Quality ECE compensation Implementation of a new wage grid for ECEs Implement new wage grid for ECEs in licenced child care settings
Quality ECE education level Number and percentage of staff in child care and early learning programs with at least a diploma level of education 70% of staff in licensed child care and early learning program will have at least a diploma level of education
Quality Professional development (PD) Development of PD related to culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion in early learning and child care Nova Scotia will develop Professional Development related to culturally responsive practice, equity and inclusion for all providers in early learning and child care in NS
Quality Professional development Development of PD will develop Professional Development training related to outdoor play NS will develop Professional Development training related to outdoor play for regulated and school based early learning programs
Quality Professional development Professional development spending NS will increase professional development spending by 10% over fiscal year 2020 to 2021 spending
Inclusion Inclusion Early learning and child care programs supporting children with disabilities or those needing enhanced supports All early learning and child care programs (licensed child care, family home child care, 3 year old early learning program, Pre-Primary Program, primary, and wrap-around program) will offer spaces for children with disabilities or those needing enhanced supports
Inclusion Inclusion Support Grant Number of licensed child care centres participating in Inclusion Support Grant All licensed child care centres will access Inclusion Support Grant funding
Inclusion Inclusion Data Availability of baseline data with respect to the number of children in all early learning and child care programs regarding:
  • self-identified ancestry information
  • diagnosed special need/participation in ECDIS
  • number of referrals made to services
NS will have consistent baseline data with respect to the number of children in all early learning and child care programs regarding:
  • self-identified ancestry information
  • diagnosed special need/participation in ECDIS
  • number of referrals made to services
Inclusion Early Childhood Development Interventions Services Participation rate of children on ECDIS caseload in early learning and child care programs Increase participation rate of children on ECDIS caseload in early learning and child care programs to 50% from the current rate of 42%
Inclusion Early Childhood Development Interventions Services Funding to ECDIS Increase funding to ECDIS by 5% to ensure they are able to meet the needs anticipated through the growth in early learning and child care spaces
Inclusion Pyramid Model Development of a plan for implementation of Pyramid Model in family home child care Create a plan for implementation of Pyramid Model in family home child care
Inclusion Pyramid Model Development of enhanced social emotional development/learning training for NS-BAP programs operating in a Pyramid Model site Develop enhanced social emotional development /learning training for NS-BAP programs operating in a Pyramid Model site
Inclusion Early Learning Curriculum Framework Updating the Early Learning Curriculum Framework Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework and Educators’ Guide will be updated to ensure the documents are culturally responsive and reflect Nova Scotia’s vision for a child care system based in inclusion, diversity, and equity
Inclusion Collaboration with First Nations partners Collaboration with First Nations partners In collaboration with First Nations and other relevant partners (federal partners and provincial partners) work toward a plan to ensure that First Nations / Indigenous children in Nova Scotia will have access to affordable, high-quality and culturally responsive ELCC

Note 1: Based on community needs assessments, true cost of care and space planning/utilization, Nova Scotia will work toward establishing approximately 2,400 more spaces by March 31, 2026 which would provide 59% coverage using the Government of Canada’s formula.

Appendix A

Nova Scotia’s journey in early learning and child care

For decades child care in Nova Scotia was funded through a variety of patchwork agreements with operators, boards of directors, and the Government of Canada, to name a few. Where possible, the Province of Nova Scotia introduced initiatives to fund spaces in communities, reduce fees for families who needed it, and support early childhood educators (ECEs) wages. While the province’s past efforts were important and critical to thousands of families, it wasn’t until 2013 that the Province was able to make meaningful progress related to access, affordability, quality and wages for ECEs. At that time, Nova Scotia started the journey to create the highest quality, most affordable and accessible early learning and child care system in the country. Every decision Nova Scotia has made since 2013 regarding early learning and child care has been made with that goal in mind.

Since 2013, ECEs have told government that they were among the lowest paid in the country and wanted more training opportunities. Child care operators told government they wanted more flexibility with how they spent government dollars. Most importantly, families made it clear that child care was too expensive, the cost was unpredictable and rising each year, and that it was not available in their communities. Nova Scotia heard these concerns and took the first steps to address these challenges and barriers.

In response to these challenges, Nova Scotia:

  • introduced a wage floor so that ECEs were paid more money and no longer among the lowest paid in the country (wage floor is $15/hour for level 1: some training, $17/hour for level 2: diploma-level training, and $19/hour for level 3: degree-level training)
  • created more opportunities for ECEs to complete additional training, including those from African Nova Scotia and Indigenous communities. More training results in higher quality care for children and higher wages for ECEs
  • allowed child care operators to use government funding to best suit their business needs, all to ensure their long-term sustainability. Investments in child care have increased by 22% from 2016 to current ($65.8 million in fiscal year 2016 to 2017 to $80.1 million in fiscal year 2020 to 2021); these investments will be at minimum maintained
  • capped what child care centres could charge families, so that families knew one year to the next how much their child care bill was going to be,
  • increased child care subsidy rates, which lowered child care bills for families. Currently, the subsidy program supports over 4000 families in Nova Scotia (subsidy budget was $26 million in 2020)
  • introduced a free, fully inclusive and universal early learning program for every 4 year old in Nova Scotia at the cost of $54 million. In recognition that not all families live in urban settings such as Halifax, Truro or Sydney, early learning spaces were created in communities that lacked child care through the introduction of a universal Pre-Primary Program, so every 4 year old in the province has access to an early learning opportunity

The introduction of a free, full-day, fully inclusive and universally accessible Pre-Primary Program in Nova Scotia was one of the most ambitious social policy agendas in the Province’s history. The commitment was that by September 2020, every 4 year old, no matter where they live, would have access to this early learning program. The roll-out of Pre-Primary took 4 years, beginning in September 2017 with only 891 children and now has over 6000 in 2020. Approximately 14,500 children have enrolled and participated in the program since its inception. The research is clear that having early learning programs in schools helps with transitions for children. They become comfortable in a school setting, they know the teachers and the administrators when they arrive in grade primary. After having a year of pre-primary, they arrive ready and eager to learn. The introduction of pre-primary has received national recognition from the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation, and the Atkinson Centre out of the University of Toronto. Jurisdictions from across the country have met with Nova Scotia asking how we were able to accomplish such a monumental and transformative change in 4 short years. The answer was always the same: the introduction of Pre-primary was part of our plan to create the highest quality, most affordable and accessible early learning and child care system in the country.

The introduction of the Pre-Primary Program was not only good for 4 year olds, it was good for communities in the province and so were the changes we made to approve affordability and access to regulated child care. Pre-primary has created opportunities for women and families to return to the work force because they had a safe place to put their children. It created almost 900 new ECE jobs across Nova Scotia as Pre-primary educators. Our regulated child care sector employed over 2,500 ECEs who were now eligible for higher wages to keep them in the field. While we created free early learning spaces for 4 years olds to increase access for families, we also created about 2,000 new spaces in child care, with half of those spaces in communities with little or no access to care. The increased access for families has positive impacts on the economy and the workforce. As we opened pre-primary, families told us about 2 key barriers for them to participate: transportation and before and after school options. With children and families at the centre of our decisions we allowed 4 year olds to take the bus to Pre-primary and we created the Nova Scotia Before and After Program (NS-BAP). NS-BAP provides recreation based programing focused on outdoor play and movement. NS-BAP providers follow program and delivery standards and are monitored, and the child care subsidy program is available for families.

Impact of covid-19

In 2020, Nova Scotia and the rest of the world faced a global pandemic. On the day that the closure of schools and child care centres was announced, Nova Scotia:

  • reassured families: the province told families that they don’t have to pick between a mortgage payment and day care bill at a time when they couldn’t access care. Nova Scotia covered the cost of parent fees during the mandated closure period
  • reassured ECEs: ECEs were told that the Province needed them to stay in the sector. When it was safe to open, we needed them to return to child care and that is why Nova Scotia paid their entire wages during the mandated closure
  • reassured child care operators: the Province told them that we needed them to able to open back up when it is safe to do so and that is why we helped them with costs like heat, rent and electricity

When it was safe to open child care in June 2020, 98% of all centres chose to re-open. ECEs returned to child care and families who needed child care came back. Before covid-19, approximately 86% of all available child care spaces in the province were occupied. And while still in a global pandemic, at this time, about 78% of all child care spaces are being utilized. In wave 3 of the pandemic, child care remained open. Families who were able were asked to temporarily voluntarily withdraw from their space so that essential service employees could use their spots. The province supported centres by covering the costs of unused spaces from April 2021 until the end of June so that we could reduce the spread of covid-19, while also supporting families who didn’t require care, maintaining staff (without lay-offs) and ensuring that families who did need care had access to it. This cost approximately $15 million. Nova Scotia is slowly opening up again, we are exceeding our vaccination targets and we are going back to our new normal. The world has changed since the pandemic began but the priority of Nova Scotia is to ensure access to affordable, high quality child care has not shifted. In fact, the pandemic has highlighted for the people of the province the importance of a strong and sustainable early learning and child care system for the economy, the workforce and the growth and development of the children.

Nova Scotia is on the cusp of a Canada-wide child care system. The Government of Canada has made one of the largest investments in social policy since the introduction of universal health care. Nova Scotia’s plan for a Canada-wide system will build on the tremendous provincial efforts over the years to recognize the importance of early learning and care for families. The province has never been better positioned to increase access, ensure inclusion for all families, support ECEs, and reduce costs as we are in this moment. Partnering with the Government of Canada will help us get where we want to be: a journey we started in 2013 to create the highest quality, most affordable and accessible early learning and child care system in the country.

Appendix B

Child care subsidy program

Currently, the Child Care Subsidy Program assists low to middle income families with child care costs in licensed child care facilities, approved family home daycare agencies and NS Before and After Programs. Families earning $35,000/year or less are eligible for maximum per diems, while families earning between $35,000 to $70,080 are eligible for a portion of the maximum per diem.

As of April 1, 2021, there are 4,132 applicant families in the program, and 5,264 children in the program.

To be considered eligible, families must meet the following criteria:

  • earn no more than $70,080/year (based on line 236 of Canada Revenus Agency’s Notice of Assessment)
  • have no more than $50,000 in liquid assets (savings or investments):
    • families earning $35,000/year or less are eligible for maximum per diems
    • families earning between $35,000 to $70,080 are eligible for a portion of the maximum per diem
Table 7: Parent demographics by incomeFootnote 3
$0 to $10,000* $10,000 to $25,000 $25,000 to $35,000 $35,000 to $45,000 $45,000 to $55,000 $55,000 to $70,000
18%
(729)
29%
(1167)
25%
(1010)
13%
(518)
8%
(307)
7%
(263)

*28% earn over $35,000 and are eligible for a portion of maximum per diems.

Table 8: Children in the program by age groupings
Infants Toddlers Preschool 3 years Preschool 4 years School age 5 to 12 years
4%
(224)
26%
(1291)
24%
(1228)
16%
(791)
30%
(1520)
Table 9: Average parent fees: maximum per diems and what families could pay
Age Fiscal year 2020 to 2021 Maximum per diem
Available for families
Family with maximum subsidy would pay based on average
Infant $42 $29 $13
Toddler $35 $24 $11
Preschooler $36 $23 $13
School age $20 $17.70 $2.30

Appendix C

NS-BAP current situation:

  • 28 school sites across the province
  • 11 child care providers, 17 not-for profit providers
  • 70 Staff employed by NS-BAP providers; 2 staff are required to be onsite at all times, regardless of the number of children. The maximum program size is 24 children, thus the ratio is 1:12 at the most
  • 6 of the child care providers will be following a licensed model (licensing the Pre-primary space and following Early Learning and Child Care Act/Regulations). Child care providers have the option of licensing their programs, however, it is not required as schools (as public buildings) are subject to other statutory regulations, and they would have other supports and structure in place. The health and safety requirements for a school/public building meet and/or exceed the requirements in the Child Care Act and Regulations
Table 10: NS-BAP enrollment numbers
Enrollment type Total “Before” only “After” only Before and after
Pre-primary children registered  136 7 72 57
School age children registered (Primary to 6) 501 22 301 178
Total 637 29 373 235
Table 11: NS-BAP fees
Program type “Before” only “After” only Before and after
Fee range ($/day) $4 to $10 $10 to $18 $14 to $25

Appendix D

The Nova Scotia Before and After Program

The NS-BAP is intended to:

  • be developmentally appropriate, welcoming, culturally responsive and ensure full participation of all children
  • be delivered by skilled, knowledgeable and engaging education and recreation leaders that create positive experiences and interactions with children
  • be delivered using existing indoor and outdoor environments at pre-primary locations
  • provide children with a total of 90 minutes of movement time with an emphasis on energetic play, including a minimum of 60 minutes outdoors, in all seasons
  • provide opportunities for structured and unstructured outdoor play and its many benefits:
    • exploration
    • discovery
    • physical literacy
    • self-regulation
    • teamwork
    • problem solving
    • risk taking
    • connecting to nature and fun
  • discourage sedentary and screen time
  • encourage quality active play through the provision of open-ended loose parts, co-designed activities and community-based excursions
  • be guided by shared set of delivery and program standards
  • be evaluated and monitored to ensure quality delivery and continuous improvement
  • be affordable for families and provide access to the Child Care Subsidy Program

A shared set of program and delivery standards were developed in partnership between the Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development and Communities Culture and Heritage to guide NS-BAP programs and achieve the following objectives:

  • increase access to affordable, safe, quality active play programming
  • increase physical activity and movement in the early years
  • increase opportunities for ECEs and recreation practitioners to enhance their awareness and skills related to movement, physical literacy and outdoor play
  • establish consistent shared requirements for recreation and child care providers

Each NS-BAP must designate a lead staff member to be on site to oversee the supervision, management and implementation of this program. Qualifications for the lead must include a degree or diploma in an area that qualifies them to work in an early childhood education or organized recreation setting. A combination of education and experience may be considered, at the discretion of the employer.

All NS-BAP staff participate in a Capacity Building Program developed specifically for NS-BAP. The Capacity Building Program includes 4 training modules that cover outdoor play, loose parts, movement, physical literacy, diversity, inclusion, role of the adult, child guidance and risky play.

Programs are supported by a Regional Support Team (RST), made up of staff from the Regional Centres for Education, Early Childhood Education Consultants with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and Regional Physical Activity Consultants with the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. The RST provides support related to program development, monitoring, inclusion, etc.

All program sites and operators are monitored and supported to ensure quality and accountability and is intended to:

  • ensure the objectives of the program are met
  • confirm the program and delivery standards are adhered to
  • provide information to inform the evaluation of the project
  • support program operators to self-identify program needs as well as opportunities to enhance the children’s experiences
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: