Margaret McCain donates $10M to Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University

HALIFAX — Margaret Norrie McCain has donated $10 million to Mount Saint Vincent University to support teaching and research on early childhood education.

The Halifax university says it's the largest gift in the school's 150-year history.

McCain's philanthropic foundation has made early childhood education its main focus, and she was among the proponents for Ottawa's 2021 commitment to make a $27-billion investment in child care over five years.

The former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick has long argued for universal, high quality child care, tied in with the public education system, and organized to support parents' work and study.

The donation will support the research, teaching and programs at the university's child and youth study department and its child study centre.

Christine McLean, chair of the university's department of child and youth study, said McCain's donation helps build the training system for early childhood educators as the field evolves into a better-paid, better-trained profession.

She said it's expected the gift will be turned into an endowment, and provide annual contributions to the department's budget, as it prepares about 400 students for positions in the province's early childhood education centres.

The university offers both undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees in the field, and has also set up agreements with community colleges that allow students to extend their two-year diplomas into university degrees.

McLean said creating a well-trained workforce is a crucial element of a revamped child care system, as the province uses its federal funding agreement to reduce parent fees and increase spaces.

She said the five-year wage for an early childhood educator in a licensed centre is $25 an hour, but the hope is that wages and benefits for the in-demand workers will increase as education levels improve — similar to what occurred in nursing and other professions.

The department chair said that in order for Nova Scotia to meet its current goal of 9,500 new child care spaces by 2026, it will require an additional 1,000 workers in the sector.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.

The Canadian Press