Coquitlam plans to add about 2,000 new licensed group childcare spaces over the next decade.
That’s the target in the city’s first-ever childcare strategy, a document that came before Monday’s (July 26) council-in-committee meeting and is expected to be finalized this fall.
The draft strategy, which is now out for stakeholder review, calls for 624 more spots for infants and toddlers, 500 spaces for pre-school aged children and 1,056 spots for school-aged kids over the next 10 years to ease the crunch.
Currently, there are only enough licensed childcare spaces for one-quarter of Coquitlam’s children, with an estimated 24.6 spots for every 100 kids — from newborn to 12 years old.
By comparison, Metro Vancouver’s ratio is 18.6 spots, B.C.’s ratio is 18.4 spaces and Canada’s ratio is 27.2 spots.
The draft strategy comes after council in 2019 made sweeping changes to land use policies and brought in incentives to get developers to include childcare facilities in their new residential or commercial buildings.
It also comes after the city obtained a grant from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to assess childcare needs in the Tri-Cities, studying current spaces, resources and gaps as well as future demands to accommodate growth.
According to the assessment, of which Coquitlam’s childcare strategy is based, the number of Coquitlam children ages zero to four is projected to rise by 3,100 kids — between 2016 and 2029 — while the number of five- to 12-year-old children is set to increase by 3,365 kids during the same period.
“As difficult as it is for parents to access licensed childcare today, without a significant amount of new spaces, the situation could worsen substantially as the city’s population grows,” wrote Jim McIntrye, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development services, in his report to committee.
And then, there’s the cost to caregivers.
According to a 2020 survey by the YMCA Child Care Resource and Referral, the average monthly fee for family childcare in Coquitlam is around:
- $947 for infant care
- $903 for toddler
- $842 for three- to five-year-old kids
- $518 for school-age kids
Meanwhile, Coquitlam’s draft childcare strategy also comes on the heels of changes at the provincial and federal levels, both of which are responsible for childcare, and a move toward a universal childcare program.
The provincial government, which plans to shift the childcare portfolio to the Ministry of Education in 2023 to handle before- and after-school childcare on school grounds (and run by school districts), now has pilot sites for its $10-a-day childcare program.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in Coquitlam — with B.C. Premier John Horgan at his side — a commitment of $9.2 billion for childcare in the province as part of a $30-billion federal package over five years.
As for municipalities, they’re also taking on a larger role with childcare and are looking to tap into senior government cash.
In Port Coquitlam, a city-run preschool will open this fall in the downtown community centre for kids ages three to five in the mornings; an afternoon preschool is set to launch in the fall of 2022.
McIntyre said that once Coquitlam council approves its final childcare strategy, the “Made in Coquitlam” targets will be reported out each year. As well, more city staff may be required to steer the file, he advised.
“To me, childcare is about a whole variety of things,” Coun. Chris Wilson said at the July 26 meeting.
“One of them, especially, is making parents’ jobs a lot easier, spending less time running around in the car, being more efficient with how they provide care to their children.”
Coun. Brent Asmundson called the draft childcare strategy “a good start” but he emphasized the senior governments’ role and the subsequent downloading of programs onto municipalities.
“It’s too easy to say, ‘It’s their responsibility,’” Coun. Dennis Marsden responded, adding, “We look to [senior governments] to fund it. We look to them to have the oversight for it and determine what are the appropriate locations, what the needs are and take care of the health and welfare of the kids. That’s their playground.”
“And, now, let’s focus in on where ours is,” Marsden said.