District backs $10 child care: Councillor questions who would pay for annual $1.5 billion cost

Rebecca Aldous, The Chief

Squamish officials backed a call for a $10-a-day B.C. child care program that would come with a $1.5 billion annual price tag.

Last week, the District of Squamish became the 26th municipality to support the $10 a Day Child Care Plan. Pieced together by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. and the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C. over the past four years, the document outlines a public system for early care and learning.

“The hope is we start to move toward a publicly funded child-care system,” childcare coalition spokesperson Sharon Gregson told The Chief.

B.C. residents’ child-care costs are the second-highest in the country, trailing only those in Toronto. And there’s a shortage of spaces, Gregson said, noting openings accommodate 19 per cent of B.C.’s youth. On top of it all, 80 per cent of mothers are in the workforce, Gregson said.

“I think from the point of view of a young family, the [childcare] crisis is getting worse, not better,” she said.

The 10-year implementation strategy calls for increased incremental provincial funding over the first five years, with a commitment to stable long-term cash. The plan recommends childcare fall under the Ministry of Education’s umbrella and out of the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s hands. The goal is to view the service as an extension of preschool and kindergarten, Gregson said.

“You’d start slowly,” she noted.

While it’s a large bill, Quebec’s $7-a-day system paid for itself after 12 years in operation, Gregson said. In addition, the province is losing money with parents forced to stay home, she noted. A 2011 report published by researchers with UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership stated work-life conflicts among employees with preschool-aged children costs B.C. business more than $600 million per year. That includes turnover, absenteeism and health care premiums.

“[Childcare] is kind of the missing social policy in Canada,” Gregson said.

Squamish has the highest percentage of residents under 14 years of age in the province, Coun. Susan Chapelle noted, adding that those under five make up a large chunk of the pie. As soon as residents get pregnant, they put their names on daycare waitlist, she said.

In terms of daycare spaces, “we’re already at a deficit,” Chapelle said.

The District of Squamish plays a role in supporting daycares, she said. Chapelle aims to put forward council motions to axe business licensing fees for daycares. She also wants municipal officials to examine utility rates for such facilities.

“Business licensing is a big one,” Chapelle said. “We make so little money in business licensing fees that charging the fees is just one more thing we do to make it difficult.”

Organizations throughout B.C. need to come up with payment outlines when they call for additional public services, Coun. Ron Sander said.

While British Columbians ask for various service bumps, some residents are not as quick to back the country’s resource-based industries, he noted, adding oil and mining provide the taxation revenue that pay for items like health care.

“There needs to be recognition from people that want things that as a society, we have to find a way to pay for them,” he said.

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