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Port Coquitlam flagged for child care shortage as cities, schools asked to tackle the problem

Latest assessment finds one space for every four children, with goal to double or triple the number of spaces
Premier John Horgan was in the Tri-Cities in 2018 to provide child care funding. But despite efforts, there still isn't enough child care in Port Coquitlam, a study has found. Photo via Diane Strandberg/File

A badly-needed daycare with room for up to 100 children — including infants — is proposed for the ground floor of an office building in Shaughnessy Station mall.

But even if it is approved by Port Coquitlam council, the new childcare centre for about 30 infants and toddlers, and 70 pre-schoolers, will barely scratch the surface of need, according to a new study.

In the coming days, Port Coquitlam councillors will be asked to consider the childcare centre as well as an assessment that shows PoCo families are vastly underserved when it comes to child care.

The study suggests there are about four children for each childcare space available in the city or 2,245 child care spaces for 8,380 children aged 0-12 — an acute shortage the city’s mayor said he experienced when he sought care for his own young son.

“I think it’s something that’s going to continue to be a big issue and priority because there’s a large number of young families and young couples moving to Port Coquitlam,” Brad West told the Tri-City News.

He said he’s heard stories from other parents challenged by both the cost and shortage of childcare and experienced it first hand when looking for care for his baby boy.

With six months left during his wife’s maternity leave, the couple started to phone around seeking care only to be told they should have registered for child care as soon as his wife was pregnant.

“I hear this from parents and young families all the time. The issue is multi-layered and there are several levels of government all overlapping and with differing responsibilities,” West said.

According to the study, there is a huge need for childcare for shift workers and for children who need extra support.

But one of the problems is that child care operators are having difficulties finding qualified staff and suitable locations, according to the study that was to be presented Tuesday by a member of the consultation team.

The report recommends the creation of more spaces for all age-groups, doubling them in most cases or tripling them for school aged-children to meet the demand.

Among the consultants’ recommendations is for the city to establish strategies and to update bylaws and policies to create new spaces in city buildings and new developments.

West said Port Coquitlam is already moving to encourage childcare in new developments, including a new affordable housing rental project planned for Gately and Kingsway Avenues in the city. It’s also seeking grants to open a child care centre in the Port Coquitlam Community Recreation Complex.

“That to me is going to be the future, where you see development make sure it’s built into it in the beginning so you’re not having to go afterwards and trying to play catchup,” West said.

One landowner that could do more, suggests West, is School District 43, which has 70 facilities across Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, and is collaborating in the childcare assessment.

“The school district has an important role to play. There is a lot of space on many of our school grounds and many of them are large sites. It makes sense to be integrating daycare into elementary schools,” West said.

Up until recently, SD43 has been struggling to find room in schools for child care spaces, but has been working to get them integrated into new schools.

The district is also working with the cities of Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Coquitlam on the child care plan. One of the recommendations is to create a community child care coordinator position in partnership with the the school district and the cities to identify opportunities and liaise with the community and the province.

Meanwhile, a public hearing for the proposed daycare at 6108 – 2850 Shaughnessy St., Shaughnessy Station, has been set for Dec. 15.

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