BC Business Magazine - - Contents -

B.C. farm­land can be a sound in­vest­ment—es­pe­cially if you’re a spec­u­la­tor look­ing for tax breaks

so left B.C. be­hind for greener pas­tures have the right idea?

“Next to hous­ing, child care is the sec­ond-big­gest cri­sis,” says Sharon Greg­son, spokesper­son for the Coali­tion of Child Care Ad­vo­cates of BC (CCCABC). “One facet is the lack of ac­cess to li­censed care, and an­other is the price.”

In Metro Van­cou­ver there are enough li­censed child-care spa­ces for only 35 per­cent of chil­dren un­der five, leav­ing most par­ents to rope in rel­a­tives, hire nan­nies, use un­li­censed home day­cares or do the math and de­cide to stay at home. “Child care has been left to the mar­ket to fig­ure out in­stead of be­ing treated like a vi­tal pub­lic ser­vice like el­e­men­tary school or health care,” Greg­son says. “[It] is a text­book ex­am­ple of mar­ket fail­ure.”

The child-care cri­sis ap­pears to be hurt­ing the city and its busi­nesses, too, as more fam­i­lies bail on Van­cou­ver’s steep liv­ing costs to set­tle else­where and em­ploy­ers strug­gle to at­tract and re­tain qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced staff.

As a man­ager of re­search and anal­y­sis at the Van­cou­ver Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion, James Ray­mond has been hear­ing a lot about the pain points for com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially cru­cial ser­vices such as child care. “It’s men­tioned by the busi­nesses we work with dayto-day as be­com­ing an is­sue,” Ray­mond says.

Van­cou­ver’s tech in­dus­try in par­tic­u­lar has a tal­ent short­age, and par­ents of young chil­dren who can’t find suit­able child care are a valu­able miss­ing piece, he adds. “Child-care in­vest­ment is a re­ally crit­i­cal in­vest­ment for all economies to make,” Ray­mond con­tends. “So I’m glad it’s be­ing fi­nally ad­dressed now.”

Ear­lier this year the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­leased its Uni­ver­sal Child Care pol­icy, an­nounc­ing the first steps to­ward build­ing a com­pre­hen­sive plan for B.C. The prov­ince has bud­geted $1 bil­lion over the next three years to cre­ate an ad­di­tional 22,000 new li­censed spa­ces and sub­si­dize li­censed providers. It’s the largest such in­vest­ment in nearly two decades.

Stud­ies in Quebec, Europe and the U.S. show that uni­ver­sal child care doesn’t just boost fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the labour force. It also nar­rows the gen­der pay gap, in­creases so­cial mo­bil­ity, re­duces poverty and, if the care is high qual­ity, provides lasting ben­e­fits for young brains.

“In B.C. it’s huge,” says Ig­lika Ivanova, a Van­cou­ver­based se­nior econ­o­mist with the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Pol­icy Al­ter­na­tives think tank. “We are build­ing the first new so­cial pro­gram in over a gen­er­a­tion.”

Fee sub­si­dies have al­ready be­gun to roll out, but with the short­age of li­censed child-care spots across the prov­ince at 122,000, ac­cord­ing to the CCCABC, for thou­sands of fam­i­lies the change can’t come quick enough. Plus, ad­vo­cates of the $10aday Child Care Plan point out that for a qual­ity uni­ver­sal pro­gram, the gov­ern­ment must hike spend­ing to $1.5 bil­lion a year. Ivanova and some other econ­o­mists be­lieve it would re­coup most of those costs from par­ents work­ing more.

For the Ot­ta­hals, the new pro­vin­cial sub­si­dies made all the dif­fer­ence. The re­sult­ing $700 re­duc­tion in monthly ex­penses helped them af­ford a three-bed­room in Pitt Mead­ows, where they also found nearby li­censed child care.

Around the time that her fam­ily was nav­i­gat­ing th­ese de­ci­sions, Tif­fany Ot­ta­hal fi­nally heard from one of the day­cares back in Burn­aby whose wait­list she joined when she was preg­nant with her first child. The mes­sage in­formed her that he was 20th in line. “It’s three and a half years later, and there’s still not a space,” she says.” It’s com­i­cal now.”

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