B.C. child-care boom on the way

Throne speech vows his­toric level of fund­ing

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - News - David P. ball

B.C. has pledged the “largest in­vest­ment in child care in B.C. his­tory” to aid in­creas­ingly cash-strapped fam­i­lies.

In Tues­day’s throne speech, the NDP said un­af­ford­abil­ity means too many are “work­ing pay­cheque to pay­cheque … anx­ious and un­cer­tain about the fu­ture be­cause no mat­ter how hard they work they don’t seem to get ahead.”

Key to the so­lu­tion, Lt. Gov. Ju­dith Gui­chon noted, is cut­ting two big-ticket costs for many fam­i­lies: child care and hous­ing.

A speech from the throne opens ev­ery Leg­is­la­ture sit­ting — it’s read by the lieu­tenant gover­nor and is typ­i­cally short on bud­get de­tails but in­stead points to the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties. The NDP’S first bud­get will be de­liv­ered next Tues­day.

For Oak Bay coun­cil­lor and par­ent Michelle Kirby, the speech’s lengthy fo­cus on day­care was cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

“Thrilled to see child care as pri­or­ity in a Throne Speech!” she tweeted. “Fi­nally, af­ter decades of child care ad­vo­cacy, many moth­ers and grand­moth­ers can cel­e­brate vic­tory!”

Child care is a chal­lenge for many fam­i­lies across the prov­ince. Van­cou­ver is home to the sec­ond-costli­est ser­vices in the coun­try, and 95 per cent of its fa­cil­i­ties have wait lists, one-in­five of those charg­ing wait­ing fees, ac­cord­ing to a Cana­dian Cen­tre for Pol­icy Al­ter­na­tives re­port in De­cem­ber.

Then there are the climb­ing costs: Van­cou­ver leads B.C.’S list with a me­dian $1,360 monthly fees for in­fants, $1,292 for tod­dlers. It’s fol­lowed by Burn­aby at $1,250 a month for in­fants, $1,200 for tod­dlers. Sur­rey and Rich­mond are close be­hind, while Rich­mond’s preschool fees rose 12 per cent last year, the most dra­matic lift in Canada.

The Coali­tion of Child Care Ad­vo­cates of B.C. have called the sit­u­a­tion “child care chaos” — they want a $2.5-bil­lion, $10-aday pro­gram like Que­bec’s (in Mon­treal, monthly day­care costs are just $168).

But Tues­day’s his­toric fund­ing prom­ise comes just weeks af­ter the fam­ily of a 16-month-old boy who died in an un­li­censed child care fa­cil­ity last year marked the first an­niver­sary of Ma­callan’s death.

The Jan­uary 2017 tragedy brought at­ten­tion to how day­care is li­censed and reg­u­lated in B.C. — and se­vere space short­ages even for fam­i­lies who can af­ford the steep price tag.

Ma­callan’s mother, Shel­ley Shep­pard, gal­va­nized long-stand­ing calls for re­forms to the over­loaded and un­der­funded child care sys­tem — calls that went un­heeded in the nascent B.C. NDP gov­ern­ment’s first bud­get up­date last fall, dis­ap­point­ing some ad­vo­cates.

“Mac died on his sec­ond full day at this day care and it was en­tirely pre­ventable,” Shep­pard wrote on Face­book last April. “I placed my beau­ti­ful, per­fect boy and my mis­placed trust into a day care and he was killed … I speak for Mac and for all of the chil­dren in our beau­ti­ful British Co­lum­bia … let us strive to be bet­ter.”

But a key miss­ing piece of Tues­day’s speech was any men­tion of how much child care would ul­ti­mately cost fam­i­lies — and cer­tainly not the $10-aday rate backed by Shep­pard and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors.

De­spite sup­port­ing that rate dur­ing the 2017 elec­tion cam­paign, the mi­nor­ity B.C. NDP’S gov­ern­ing pact with the Greens made only vague, un­costed prom­ises to “in­vest in child­care and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion.”

“We know when we in­vest in child care, ev­ery­one ben­e­fits,” Premier John Hor­gan said in a state­ment fol­low­ing Gui­chon’s speech. “… We will make sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments to make sure fam­i­lies have ac­cess to safe, qual­ity and af­ford­able child care.”

In­cluded in those mea­sures, the throne speech hinted, would be sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing for new li­censed child care spa­ces — but also the “con­ver­sion” of ex­ist­ing but cur­rently un­li­censed spa­ces.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.