Port Coquitlam is hoping to add more construction to its already expansive and lengthy community centre renovation that would put a small dent in the city’s daycare space shortage.
PoCo council has decided to make a pair of grant applications to the province’s new community child care planning program. One of the requests is for $360,000 to design and outfit an area in the centre to accommodate 20 licensed pre-school spaces. The other request is for $25,000 so the city can hire a consultant to help develop a plan to create more spaces.
“This is a really positive move. There’s clearly a real need in our community for affordable child care. I appreciate the province has realized municipalities have a role to play in this,” said Mayor Brad West of the programs announced by the provincial NDP government in September.
“We have a lot of young families moving to the community which is critical in planning for the future.”
West said he realized how much of a crisis there was in PoCo when he and his wife Blaire went looking for daycare for their son Liam, who turns two on Monday (Jan. 14).
“My wife and I are living this right now,” said West. “We began phoning around daycares about three months before her maternity leave was ending. Without fail every single one of them said ‘we’ll have to put you on a wait list,’ and there were ones saying we should have put ourselves on the wait lists as soon as we found out she was pregnant. That’s the level we’re at, which is just nuts.”
West said they were fortunate to find a space in downtown PoCo, but it’s a challenge and a stressful time for families when they go looking. He believes being able to include pre-school care at the new community centre, if the city gets the grant, will alleviate some of the problem but doesn’t come close to eliminating it.
“That in of itself that isn’t going to solve the challenge we have out there, but it certainly is part of contributing to the solution,” said West. “The need is many more times than that, but at least it would be contributing toward addressing the need.”
In a report, the city said it is exploring options to design and outfit the preschool and activity room in the new community centre.
“If approved, the [$360,000] would go towards capital purchases to furnish and equip the space, modify and/or enhance the interior design and include a fenced outdoor playground,” said the report.
Getting the grant would mean the city would have to commit to providing licensed pre-school programs for at least 10 years. The city doesn’t envision that being an issue because of the current demand and the lengthy waitlists.
West said the other grant application will help determine what long-term solutions the city can take to alleviate PoCo’s childcare crunch. West likes Port Coquitlam’s chances to receive the requested funding.
“We have a good track record of achieving grants that we apply for, so I feel quite optimistic of our ability to realize it,” said West.