MIRAMICHI (GNB) – A total of 35 early learning and child care facilities in the Miramichi region have benefited from $198,774 under the provincial government’s One-Time Quality Improvement Grant program.

“If we want to improve the quality of life for New Brunswick families, one of the best investments we can make is in early childhood learning,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser. “Investments in early childhood learning and education are not only good for the economy, they ensure a strong quality of life. That is why early childhood and education is one of our government’s top priorities.”

Fraser spoke on behalf of Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny.

The grants help facilities improve indoor and outdoor learning environments, including equipment and materials, for children aged five and under. At least 50 per cent of the grant must be used to enhance or create more natural outdoor play spaces for children.

Fraser visited L'il Critters Early Learning and Child Care today to tour the facility. It received $6,559 to create an outdoor play space and learning environment for children.

“Receiving the One-Time Quality Improvement Grant allowed us to improve the quality of our outdoor area and create a more natural green space,” said Jennifer Curtis, the centre’s owner and operator. “We have designed spaces that encourage children to use their imaginations, including a sand area, dry riverbed and two vegetable gardens. We have modified our cedar playhouse and turned it into a library, and have installed a sunshade for children to sit under for picnics and table activities. We also plan to build a fairy garden and science area.”

The one-time grants will total $4.7 million over two years. In the first year, 506 early learning and child care facilities across New Brunswick have taken advantage of the grant.

The deadline for applying for the one-time quality improvement grant for 2018-19 is Feb. 28, 2019. The grant will be available to all licensed facilities offering services to preschool children aged five and under that have become designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centres.

“The first years of life are essential for children’s development and future well-being,” said Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Pat Finnigan. “That is why I am pleased that the Government of Canada and the Government of New Brunswick are working together to raise quality standards in facilities, thereby improving the quality of early learning and child care offered to families with young children.”

Finnigan attended for federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

A full list of Miramichi-region facilities receiving one-time grants is available online.

The One-Time Quality Improvement Grant is part of a federal-provincial, three-year early learning and child care agreement that commits $71 million in investments to improve early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the province.