Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I have spoken many times in this House about the need for accessible and affordable childcare. It is one of our mandate commitments, but during the life of this Assembly there has been a growing crisis of supply of licensed childcare here in Yellowknife.
There are two issues that stand in the way of easing this supply problem. The first is that licensed childcare provides modest income to providers. This is the reason that licensed childcare is usually provided by non-profits. The introduction of JK has taken a toll, even on non-profit childcare. It took kids over three out of the mix, leaving the youngest kids, who need more staff to care for them. The whole sector has downsized. Unless non-profit providers are able to bring significant economies of scale to the table, like the YK Day Care did by offering 100 spaces, it's difficult for them to break even. In short, ECE has disrupted the supply of licensed childcare for children ages zero to three, killing even limited profitability.
Mr. Speaker, the second issue is finding a space for childcare that meets building and fire code requirements. These are exacting and appropriate standards to ensure our children are safe. I recently learned that there is no space available for rent in Yellowknife that meets these requirements. Renovating buildings to meet the code is expensive. There is often hazardous material abatement involved, as well as improved fire separation, walls, and floors.
Mr. Speaker, if there is no appropriate space in Yellowknife, what are the chances of their being space ready to move into in the regional centres, let alone in the small communities? This is a significant problem, because 11 communities don't have established licenses childcare.
The repercussions of this crisis are significant. Both parents and caregivers can't keep working, and they are taking their taxable income with them. Or worse, they are making plans to leave the NWT so they can continue their careers while having easier access to licensed childcare.
Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is here is that, in order for NWT residents to access childcare, the government is going to have to invest in infrastructure. The cost of constructing or renovating buildings is beyond the reach of non-profit budgets. The Minister has said she was working on a comprehensive plan to make childcare more accessible. I am looking forward to hearing how. Mahsi.