NDP will increase B.C.'s short supply of $10 child care spaces if re-elected, Horgan says
VANCOUVER -- The NDP has promised to expand the limited number of $10-a-day child care spaces available in the province if re-elected, though it's unclear how many more families would benefit in the near future.
On Thursday, NDP Leader John Horgan suggested that increasing the number of affordable child care spaces would help B.C. recover from the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've heard it over and over and over again: 'I can't go to work unless I find someone to take care of my children,'" Horgan said.
But the NDP has not specified how many additional $10 spaces would be made available if the party is given a fresh mandate next month.
The NDP promised to provide $10-a-day child care during the last election campaign, and has only delivered a short supply through the universal child care program it launched in late 2018.
In a statement, the BC Liberals said the NDP "absolutely failed" on its promise. The Liberals calculated the number of $10 spots currently available at just two per cent of spaces in the province.
“Right after the election, they (the NDP) decided that was just a slogan and something they aspired to and they wanted you to quickly forget about it,” BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said while campaigning in Maple Ridge.
On Thursday, Horgan blamed a lack of support from the B.C. Green Party, which made the NDP's minority government possible through their confidence and supply agreement, for the incremental progress.
"We wanted to advance $10-a-day child care as quickly as possible, the B.C. Greens did not support that so we amended our plan, we focused on creating more spaces, we focused on reducing fees for people," the NDP leader said.
Green Leader Sonia Furstenau says she worked closely with the NDP on a child care plan.
“To be rewriting history at this time is unacceptable and is an indication of someone unwilling to take responsibility for his decision,” Furstenau said in response to Horgan’s comments.
She says she worked hard on the child care plan and believes every child in British Columbia should have access to affordable early childhood education.
The province launched its pilot program with about 2,500 spaces at 53 prototype facilities, funded with $60 million from the federal government's Early Learning and Child Care agreement.
The program was originally scheduled to run until March 31 of this year, but was expanded to run through March 2021.
Parents who were lucky enough to be included in the pilot paid a maximum of $200 per month for each child. Care for some children "could be free" depending on the parents' income, according to the government.
The NDP said it has also reduced fees for the parents of 63,000 children by as much as $350 a month, and approved funding for 20,000 new child care spaces since being elected in 2017.
But the BC Liberals noted only 3,490 spaces had been opened as of May 2020, which the party described as an "85 per cent failure rate on promised spaces."
Horgan also pointed the B.C.'s Child Opportunity Benefit, which comes into effect next week. The program will benefit "almost 300,000 low and middle-income families," according to the NDP, giving up to $3,400 to families with three kids.
Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC, said the NDP has made good progress, but more work needs to be done.
“We can’t have poverty wages for early childhood educators anymore,” she told CTV.
She says the starting wage for ECE’s should be $26/hour. Right now, she said, the average wage is six dollars less than that.
Gregson also says there’s no point in opening up more spaces if there aren’t enough educators to fill them.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Michele Brunoro