Up to 2,300 new child care spaces coming to Vancouver, Horgan says

Parents in Vancouver will have access to as many as 2,300 new licensed child care spaces over the next three years, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced Thursday.

The government didn't reveal how much the spaces will cost, but said they will all be covered by B.C.'s Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative, which saves eligible parents up to $350 a month.

The spots are being paid for with a $33 million funding injection from the province's child care spaces fund, which Horgan described as an investment in wider economic growth.

"Oftentimes people think of child care as a social policy, and of course it's critically important that we find safe, affordable, quality places for our most precious people," Horgan said.

"But it also allows families to realize their full economic potential to meet the challenges of an increasingly unaffordable environment."

B.C. is partnering with the city on the project, and will be taking advantage of existing facilities across Vancouver for the spaces, including schools, libraries and other community buildings.

There will be spots for infants, toddlers and school-aged children alike. But while the thousands of new spaces are surely welcome news to parents, they will only make a dent in the city's child care space deficit.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said officials estimate Vancouver is currently 17,000 short of the spaces needed to serve local families.

"That's why this announcement is so important," Kennedy said. "This is a great kick start, but we've got a long way to go."

Jason Lyle, who earlier this year told CTV News he and his wife Susan Tran pay $3,950 a month to keep their three children in daycare, agrees that things are moving in the right direction – even if it's not as quickly as he'd like.

He called the addition of 2,300 spaces "a little bit of a Band-Aid to blow things over so the government looks a little better."

Still, with his twins heading into a new daycare, and his son going to kindergarten this fall, he's expecting to see thousands of dollars in savings, even if his family doesn’t directly benefit from Thursday's announcement.

"I think it's a great step in the right direction," Lyle said. "How big of a step is another question I'd like to put to the mayor."

The struggle of parents to find quality child care came into sharp focus in January 2017, when Chris Saini and Shelley Sheppard's toddler son Mac died at an unlicensed provider in East Vancouver.

The couple filed a lawsuit against the woman who ran the daycare, Yasmine Saad, but court documents obtained by CTV News this week reveal they have been unable to track her down, despite hiring a private company to find her.

During Thursday's announcement, Horgan stressed that providing licensed spaces and preventing a similar tragedy is a top priority for the government.

"Baby Mac looks at me every day in my office two years in," Horgan said. "If we are going to put a child at risk because of a lack of resources then we are failing our whole society, in my opinion."

The province didn't have any more news to share about its pilot program offering $10 a day child care, which is currently being tested at 53 facilities across B.C., including eight in Vancouver.

Horgan said the government will continue to expand the program "as long as the public keeps us in office."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's David Molko