B.C. Finance Minister Carole James visits a Victoria daycare on the eve of her first budget, Feb. 19, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

The 2018 B.C. budget is touting a “made-in-BC” child care plan, with an investment of more than $1 billion to put the province on the path to universal child care with more than 24,000 child care spaces over the next three years.

A new child care benefit that will be rolled out in September will reduce child care costs by up to $1,250 per month per child and support 86,000 B.C. families per year by 2020/21. The province has also announced they’ll be providing up to $350 per month directly to licensed child care providers starting April 1 that is expected to reduce fees for an estimated 50,000 families per year by 2020/21.

“Budget 2018 offers the largest investment in childcare in B.C.’s history with a billion-dollar child care investment over three years,” Finance Minister Carole James said Tuesday. “It will lower costs for parents, it will increase the number of childcare spaces, and it will make sure that those spaces meet the highest standards for quality care.”

The expansion of child care facilities and the improvement of care will provide immediate relief to tens of thousands of families, according to the province, who say these steps — in addition to lowering fees for parents and increasing the number of qualified early childhood educators — will drop fees at licensed child care centres for infants and toddlers, and for children between the ages of three and five years old.

Families using unlicensed care will also be eligible to receive a partial benefit, while the province will continue to support those facilities and encourage them to become licensed.

James said she has heard from parents across the province who say they are anxious about child care and often that anxiety begins before their child is even born.

“Parents want quality child care that is safe and gives them peace of mind while they are at work. For those parents lucky enough to find a spot, they struggle to afford high child care fees,” noted James.

“We also need to make sure we heed the ever-expanding body of research that shows us that public spending on childcare is a wise social and economic investment.”

In Vancouver, which boasts some of the highest child care rates in the country, a median fee is $1,250 per month for infants and toddlers, according to the province. And the rest of the province is not much better. Infant and toddler care averages $1,000 per month on south Vancouver Island and the Kootenays, and it’s almost as high in the Okanagan and Interior.

The new fee reductions for licensed care operators who join the program will see:

  • up to $350/month for group infant/toddler care
  • up to $200/month for family infant/toddler care
  • up to $100/month for group care for children aged 3-5
  • up to $60/month for family care for children aged 3-5

Families with pre-tax incomes of $45,000 of less will receive the full benefit, up to the cost of care, while those who make up to $111,000 will receive a reduced amount, scaling back according to income. Benefit amounts will grow over the years, and are expected to help up to 86,000 families by the end of 2020/21.

“This creates real, transformational change in our society,” explained James. “Our plan will be affordable for families and the province. It will be accessible for parents so they can get back to work and most importantly it will give children a safe, supportive place to learn and grow by meeting rigorous quality standards.”

$10 a day childcare

No mention was made during Tuesday’s budget lockup of the $10 a day childcare, which became the NDP’s slogan during last year’s election campaign. Following the provincial throne speech last week, Premier John Horgan reiterated his commitment to the plan, but also pointed out it was put together by child care providers and not the province.

“We’ve embraced it and we’re going to implement it. We’ve had discussions with some other members of other party’s in the legislature and we’re bringing people around, I believe, to a position that will meet that commitment,” Horgan said at the time.

“The first three years are the ramp-up period, where we’re looking at toddler or infant care and creating more spaces for training more people and those elements will be in the budget.”

Those statements were met with strong opposition by the B.C. Liberal party and their new leader Andrew Wilkinson, who stated you cannot build a childcare program (or any other social program) on $10 per day.

“During our time in office, we provided tens of thousands of new childcare spaces and what the NDP has done is vastly over promise that they can provide $10 per day childcare to everyone in British Columbia that wants it, in a safe, licensed facility,” he said.

“And today their efforts in that direction show they cannot deliver on this. They knew this during the election, they have confirmed today that they made promises during the election they have no intention of keeping, starting with the big ones of housing and childcare.”

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver reminded residents that his party also campaigned on quality childcare and early childhood eduction, and hoped to hear more about the issue of supply.



ragnar.haagen@bpdigital.ca

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