B.C. child-care boom on the way
Throne speech vows historic level of funding
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.