The aging childcare facility in Kiwanis Park may get a much-needed makeover if the city is approved in its application to the MCFD for funding from the BC Childcare New Spaces Fund. (Photo from City of Penticton)

Penticton prepares to apply for Childcare BC New Spaces Fund

City council heard an update from staff about the necessary steps to submit an application

Big plans are in the works for the childcare centre on Edmonton Avenue.

Penticton city council heard a report from staff during the committee of the whole on Nov. 5 about the city’s intent to apply for a grant from the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) Childcare BC New Spaces Fund to “replace the aging Edmonton Avenue Centre in Kiwanis Park with a new, expanded childcare facility.”

The city currently faces a lack of affordable childcare spaces, an issue highlighted by the Waitlisted Project BC, which was founded by a Penticton mother with the same challenge.

“This fund was introduced in July 2019 and the city was invited directly by the MCFD to partake in the this Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, which funds up to $3 million per facility to a municipality directly and does not require any matching funds from the province. So this is cash without any commitment financially from the city to fund the production of new childcare spaces,” said Ben Johnson, the acting director of development services with the city. “We have been put on notice by the province that this will be a time-limited program so time is of the essence in terms of getting an application together for this program.”

Johnson said the city’s research shows that childcare spaces are lacking across the city, and “specifically for infants and toddler care up to three years of age and before and after school care.” This issue is impacting potential future residents of the city, he said.

READ MORE: Penticton mom seeking change in province’s childcare system

“Our economic development office has identified childcare as sometimes being the reason why people do not move to Penticton, the lack of childcare inhibits their resettlement to Penticton,” said Johnson.

In a community survey conducted by the city, Kiwanis Park and the two city-owned childcare centres within it were identified as a good opportunity for this grant to “replace these aging facilities with new and expanded childcare if the grant application is successful.”

Johnson explained that since the city does not intend to operate the facility itself, the city needs to find a non-profit partner to work with on the application for the grant, and the two existing facilities are currently operated by OneSky Community Resources. To find a partner, who would help design, build, leaser and operate the new facility, the city needs to issue an expression of interest (EOI).

Kiwanis Park would also need to undergo a zoning amendment to add the use of a major daycare centre on the Park-zoned land. He reiterated that “time is of the essence” so these two processes will proceed in parallel.

“This item is very near and dear to my heart since I have been involved in the environment of child-minding for over 30 years in this community. At the recent UBCM in Vancouver, I was able to participate in a workshop that the MCFD and staff put on regarding this opportunity,” said Coun. Judy Sentes. “They made it very clear to those of us that attended that they are already into their second call for proposals and stressed the importance of action.”

Sentes added that in her experience, an opportunity such as this “has never come forward before.” Coun. Julius Bloomfield had Johnson clarify that the city does not have a full report yet on how many spaces this proposed new centre would offer.

Because the proposed childcare centre will exist within a park space, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will need to approve the zoning amendment.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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