The association representing private daycare operators say they are being strong-armed into accepting a deal for the Liberal government’s $10/day childcare agreement with the Alberta government.According to Krystal Churcher, chair of the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs (AACE), childcare operators “have no choice” but to sign the 2024 Affordability Grant Agreement or face drastic service reductions and even insolvency.This decision should not be considered a win for the Alberta government, the government of Canada or for the childcare sector,” she said on Tuesday.“The industry's consent is marked by an air of duress, underscored by looming concerns over potential service reductions, the jeopardization of childcare quality and the stark reality of potential insolvency for some childcare operators.”.Alberta has long benefited from a mixed-market approach to childcare, offering families high-quality options and the freedom to choose providers that best meet their individual needs. .It comes after AACE on Monday said it refused “to stand by as the government implements a program that risks destroying their businesses and compromises childcare quality and choice.”“While AACE and its members wholeheartedly support the goal of affordable childcare, the organization insists on a dialogue to explore meaningful, sustainable approaches to achieve it, rather than accepting a flawed system that threatens the livelihoods of operators, and then subsequently those of parents as they begin to lose their childcare options,” it added.Churcher said Alberta has long benefited from a mixed-market approach to childcare, offering families high-quality options and the freedom to choose providers that best meet their individual needs. The system is now at risk due to the currently structured, highly inflexible, Ottawa-imposed agreement, criticized for being grossly underfunded and pushing towards a nationalized public model that limits choice and quality and will inevitably erode standards and service.Under the $10 program only the “basics” would be covered while ‘non-essentials’ such as lunches and extracurricular activities that parents have come to take for granted would fall by the wayside..“I mean, in Alberta there are 200-plus centres that have waitlists for 500 families sitting on them. Families will be impacted on any kind of closures of childcare right now. There's nowhere to go. If your centre is closed, there's nowhere to go but to sit on a waitlist.”Krystal Churcher, Chair of the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs.In an interview with The Western Standard, she compared it to a budget airline that charges extra for baggage and priority boarding.A recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office found that the program would have a budget shortfall exceeding $9 billion annually — money that would inevitably have to be made up from the Alberta government to maintain even basic program standards. And, she said, Alberta is already unique in that it has a growing population with a disproportionately larger share of families with children.As the E. coli crisis in Calgary showed, any kind of prolonged closures or shut down of childcare facilities will only result in longer wait lists and displaced children.“I mean, in Alberta there are 200-plus centres that have waitlists for 500 families sitting on them. Families will be impacted on any kind of closures of childcare right now. There's nowhere to go. If your centre is closed, there's nowhere to go but to sit on a waitlist.”.“I find it very ironic that it (the UCP government) hasn't taken such a strong stand. I think it’s because they unfortunately took the money and they signed the agreement with the federal government and they are bound by that agreement now unless they want to give the money back.”.Moreover, she insists it’s yet another example of jurisdictional overreach on Ottawa’s part. Churcher said it’s ironic the UCP government has placed a heavy emphasis on constitutional challenges to federal energy policies but seems content to allow it to intrude on child care.“Childcare falls within provincial jurisdiction, but the federal Liberal government has bought their way in by promising billions of dollars to make childcare more affordable,” she said.“I find it very ironic that it (the UCP government) hasn't taken such a strong stand. I think it’s because they unfortunately took the money and they signed the agreement with the federal government and they are bound by that agreement now unless they want to give the money back.”.According to the Ministry of Children and Family Services, Alberta has approximately 2,250 child care operators, the vast majority of which have signed on to the new 2024-25 Affordability Grant Agreement.“While the AACE represents approximately 10% of all child care operators, the majority of operators have told us they appreciate the reliable funding government provides through the agreement, as well as increased enrolment as child care is made more affordable and accessible for families,” spokesperson Ashli Barrett said in a statement to the Western Standard.She said the affordability grants are an interim measure and will be replaced by a new funding formula that will determine how funding is allocated. Work on the creation of a new system is already underway to streamline and improve payment processes in order to address operators’ concerns around disbursement times. “Alberta fought hard for private operators to be included in the federal-provincial child care agreement. At every opportunity, the province continues to advocate on behalf of families and operators with the federal government for more flexibility within the agreement,” she said.