GUYSBOROUGH – When MLA Lloyd Hines (Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie) announced his government’s $500,000 contribution towards a new childcare centre for Guysborough on July 16, the gasps of delight from the crowd of parents and advocates were audible.
But it might have been the look on three-month-old Emma George’s face that really stopped him in his tracks.
“When you look into the eyes of children, you know they’re sizing you up,” he joked. “They’re sucking up all the information. So, I think, the quicker we can get our kids into a learning situation, the better it is for all of us … for society.”
For Guysborough and area, the news was both better and timely. For years, safe, affordable, local childcare has been the missing piece of a community development puzzle that already includes a quality school, hospital, library, performance centre, marina and modern recreation complex.
The new centre, to be located at Chedabucto Place – where the needed renovations are scheduled to begin this year, will complete that picture, providing spaces for approximately 20 infants and toddlers at a fully-licensed childcare operation. What’s more, thanks to a new, five-year, $605 million funding agreement between the provincial and federal governments announced last week, it won’t cost local families a king’s ransom in fees.
“This agreement reduces child care fees by 50 per cent next year, and it drops fees to $10 a day on average by 2026,” Hines explained in an interview, adding that funding for the actual centre will come from the provincial Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. “The fed-prov agreement certainly complements our plans, but, if that hadn’t come, we would still be making the announcement. It’s that important.”
Guysborough area’s Danielle Bond, mother of preschooler Leia Kennedy, couldn’t agree more.
“This is an incredible accomplishment,” she said. “I’m trying to be on a professional level in town and provide for my family and my child. This helps me and a lot of other young mothers who are struggling to go to work and better their lives.”
Bond is a founding board member of the Guysborough and Area Child Care Association (GACCA) which has been working with the Strait Regional Centre for Education (SRCE) over the past six months to secure a suitable location for the centre at the school.
Said GACCA President Katie Pellerin at the announcement: “News of this funding has absolutely elated us this week, and we are so grateful that our provincial and federal government partners have stepped up to recognize this need for quality care for families, communities and children, and especially women in rural Nova Scotia.”
She added: “We have gone for too long without this service in our community. And it has impacted the mental health and well-being of families and women across our county. It has kept families living below the poverty line, and has been a great obstacle for recruiting medical professionals that we really need for our residents. Today is the beginning of a better future for families, businesses and all residents of our community.”
Indeed, said SRCEs Regional Executive Director of Education Paul Landry:
“We’re very pleased that we’ve been able to partner with Education and Early Childhood Development to receive funding for this project … It’s going to be a nice fit within the school community, and it will provide a great service.”
Apart from filling a clear and urgent need, the school will likely provide a longer-term community development service: as both an attractor of, and anchor for new and vital professional skills.
“A centre like this makes it so much easier when we’re trying to recruit and retain professionals – doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, political people,” said Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Warden Vernon Pitts. “This is only the start. There are better things to come.”
Hines said community support helped push the project ahead, and he thanked GACCA and MODG, in particular, for their advocacy. “Thank you all so much for coming out to show your support for this piece of community infrastructure, which was significantly missing in the community here,” he told the announcement crowd.
“With this announcement, our young people become better equipped for the life that lies ahead. This is what’s recognized as crucial across the country and across the world as what’s essential in an evolving society.”