Advocates seek affordable childcare
An initiative to charge parents and caregivers $10 a day — or less — for childcare is gaining steam in B.C.
This week, supporters of the campaign appeared before Coquitlam’s council-in-committee to pitch the idea, which last month was backed by Port Coquitlam’s finance committee.
Endorsements have also come in from Burnaby and Surrey city councils as well as childcare groups, businesses, service organizations, the New Westminster and District Labour Council and the Coquitlam Teachers’ Association. School District 43 is also supporting the cause, as is New West-Coquitlam NDP MP Fin Donnelly.
Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates, told Coquitlam council the proposal would cost the provincial government $88 million a year initially and up to $1.5 billion annually to implement in full — a price tag Premier Christy Clark said last year is too high.
Its plan calls for a number of methods to make childcare public, regulated, safe and affordable. Among its points is to move the purview of childcare to the Ministry of Education (it currently falls under the Ministry of Children and Families); create an Early Care and Learning Act; and develop a five-year roll-out to fund the $10-a-day program.
Gregson, a childcare operator and former trustee with Vancouver School Board, told Coquitlam council that while B.C. has solid early learning opportunities with StrongStart and full-day kindergarten, there is also a 30% vulnerability rate in SD43, with the high childcare fees and low wages.
Her group’s plan would be to cap fees at $10 a day for full-time working parents and $7 a day for part-time working parents; families with an income under $40,000 a year wouldn’t be charged for childcare.
The result, she said, would generate a number of economic spin-offs: With more parents in the workforce, families could save and spend; in turn, the province would collect more taxes.
Gregson said the program is modelled after one in Quebec, which has had a $7-a-day childcare system since the late 1980s and one that Coquitlam Coun. Bonita Zarrillo said she took up, while residing in that province, to allow her to go back to school to train.
Coun. Chris Wilson also said he’s in favour of the proposal. “It’s all about the future of the kids,” he said.
Still, Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA Selina Robinson said while more childcare spaces are needed, she fell short in endorsing the initiative.
"I want to see the numbers first and what impact this would have on our economy," she said.
Coquitlam council took no action at Monday's meeting in response to the presentation.