The deadline for early learning and daycare centres to re-sign with the latest phase of the Alberta Affordability Grant is in just two days.
As of January 1, grants to daycare operators increased per-space which means parents pay less as part of the joint agreement between the federal and provincial governments for $10-dollar-a-day daycare.
Executive director of Daydreams ELCC in High River, Julia Gwyn-Morris, says some centres are refusing to sign up because of the way the funding works.
"You submit your hours for your parents' attendance and your staff attendance and all those wonderful things and then you wait six weeks for the funding to come in. If the government had thought ahead, they would have realized this, that it's putting some centres at some risk," she says.
They want the province to pay at least some of the money up front.
Some centres are seeing lower enrolments post-COVID and a lot of centres, she says, were at a low threshold for fees before the government stepped in and said they could not raise fees anymore.
"For whatever reason, the government again didn't negotiate or talk to those individual centres that could have gone back to them and said 'hey, it's artificially low, can we talk about this as to what is the average cost per day for a parent in my area' because the costs will vary around the province."
She says it's mostly daycares in larger centres like Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer who are refusing to re-sign, hoping the province will come back and negotiate but Gwyn-Morris doesn't believe that'll happen.
The provincial government did allow them to raise rates by three per cent, but they were still falling behind when inflation was close to eight per cent and prices kept rising.
"There are centres that do have a valid issue. It's even affecting this community here. Your payrolls are coming out and there's definitely staff, all staff deserve to have more because they have been underpaid for so long that you don't have any room now to increase and as a non-profit you don't have any room, period."
Gwyn-Morris says if centres don't sign on, they could be "cutting their own throats" and some will go under because they'll have to increase fees well above what parents can afford.
She adds some centres have even said they don't want the government to tell them how to spend the grant money they get, but Gwyn-Morris says if you're taking taxpayer money you need to show exactly where you're spending it.
The province, she pointed out, even pays for the audit.