B.C. budget not moving fast enough on $10-a-day child care, advocates say
VANCOUVER -- Child care advocates say B.C.'s latest budget isn’t adding $10-a-day daycare spaces fast enough to meet the needs of families in the province. They’re pushing for the government to sign an agreement with Ottawa for promised federal funding, in the hopes of speeding up the process.
On Tuesday, B.C. announced 75 more centres will move to $10-a-day under the universal child care prototype program, which the government said will add about 3,750 more spaces over the next three years, more than doubling the current number.
When the program first launched in 2018, 2,500 spaces were created. Families at these centres pay no more than $200 a month for full-time enrolment. The program was intended to help test funding and operational models in a move towards a universal child care system.
Ana Valle was able to access $10-a-day daycare in the Tri-Cities for her two children, and said it was "definitely life-changing."
Her son got a spot after a year and a half on a waitlist, and her daughter was able to go to the same location after the daycare received funding to open more spaces.
“We really lucked out...I had no idea when I had put him on the list, that it was going to turn into a $10-a-day program,” she said.
Valle said having child care allowed her to recover from a back injury, and start her own business, Early Years Workshops and Training, which provides professional development for early childhood educators (ECE’s). Valle is one herself.
“I got really healthy, emotionally and physically,” she said, and added she hopes to see the universal child care prototype program expanded more quickly. “For the people who would greatly benefit and who would be uplifted from being able to access $10-a-day, I want it for them. And not just for financial reasons, but for the holistic well-being that $10-a-day can provide to families and children and communities.”
Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC said the number of $10-a-day spaces being added over the next few years is so small “it still won’t impact enough families."
“The budget yesterday was fairly disappointing for child care,” Gregson said. “There was a commitment in the recent provincial election to $1.5 billion of spending over three years on child care, and we saw a commitment instead of $233 million.”
Gregson said there were some positives, including a doubling of the wage supplement for ECE’s to $4 an hour, despite lacking a provincial wage grid based on years of experience and training to ensure equity. She added there was also an investment in new spaces for the Aboriginal Head Start program, which provides care and early learning to Indigenous families, and an expansion of child care on school grounds from four districts to 24, as part of the “Seamless Day” pilot program.
“But overall, what it really shows is how dependent British Columbia is now on federal funding in order to deliver on its ten year commitment of universal child care,” Gregson said. “We’re hoping that B.C. will be the first province to step up and sign a bilateral agreement with the federal government so that new federal dollars start to flow.”
Those funds were promised in Monday’s federal budget in a move towards a national child care plan. The federal government said it will authorize the transfer as soon as bilateral agreements are reached with the provinces and territories.
B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said while the province was “not depending” on the federal government for its child care plan, “we’re pleased to hear on Monday that they were at the table and it just means that we can accelerate."
“Our commitment is to roll out faster,” Robinson said, and added how the funds will be allocated will depend on how much is received once the agreement is signed. “(I’m) assuming that those conversations will be happening imminently.”
Robinson said they also want to make sure there are enough trained ECE’s to support new spaces created.
“The workforce behind the workforce is absolutely critical as well,” she said. “Once we train people, we want to make sure that they’ll stay...all of these pieces need to work together.”
Robinson said there are also plans to move child care to the education ministry, something she expects will happen over the coming year.
Valle said she hopes to see more funding and resources for early childhood education, including better compensation for those who are providing care.
“I think there’s been enough studies done to back up the reasons for why we need to invest in early years,” she said.