B.C.’s childcare budget item fails to impress advocate

By Cheryl Rossi, Courier

Sharon Gregson calls the Early Years Strategy B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced Wednesday morning “piecemeal” and “laughable.”

The longtime advocate for publicly funded childcare… sees broader support for The Plan for $10 a Day Child Care, which she promotes as a spokesperson for the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C.

“And for her to do a $55-a-month tax credit that starts two years from now… is just so pathetic,” said Gregson, who also serves as director of child and family development services for Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Gregson noted licensed childcare for toddlers and infants in Vancouver costs an average of $60 a day, according to a 2012 fee survey completed by Westcoast Family Information and Referral, so $55 a month wouldn’t cover one day of such care. “Any new spaces that are being promised are still going to be completely unaffordable for families,” she said.

Gregson said she makes presentations to a minimum of two groups a week about the plan the coalition launched in April 2011 and travels to speak outside of the Lower Mainland at least twice a month. She’s travelling to Haida Gwaii next week, West Vancouver the week after and Revelstoke in early April. “I came to this issue in 1987 as a single parent with two baby boys,” she said.

Now a mother of four, Gregson says she’s met parents who remove their children from licensed care because they can’t afford it, jeopardizing their jobs. “I see parents who phone me and are desperate, in tears, that their maternity leave is ending and we don’t have a childcare space to offer them and they don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said.

Clark announced the government’s eight-year commitment to early childhood development ….

Gregson noted that along with municipalities, community service agencies and school districts across the province, the Vancouver School Board supports the Plan for $10 a Day Childcare.

This plan sees the Ministry of Education fund elected school boards to provide early care and learning programs and the elimination of what Gregson called a bureaucratic subsidy system.

The plan sees families pay $10 a day for a full-time program and $7 a day for part-time. It would be free for families who have an annual income of less than $40,000….