Child Care in Hansard


Morning Sitting
Volume 24, Number 1

           C. Trevena: I rise today to talk about child care and the threat of commodification and commercialization it faces. It’s widely recognized that a child’s formative years are from birth until the age of seven, and we as a society recognize youngsters as children until they’re 12. Yet as a society, we don’t start taking societal responsibility for children until they’re five, entering kindergarten, or six, when they’re going into grade 1 — in other words, when they’re at school and, most often, at public school.

The system steps in to provide education, guidance and structure, and this is publicly funded. It’s publicly funded because we as a society recognize the importance of education and that all children should have access to education. What’s so surprising is that our society does not place the same value on younger children.

Up until the age of five or six, parents who want to go to work or parents who want their children to socialize and to learn, have to simply hunt for child care. The search is painful and worrying, the waiting lists are long, and availability is scarce. This puts families under a huge amount of stress.

I’ve talked to numerous parents who simply cannot go back to work because they can’t find child care. It has been recognized as a problem by B.C.’s chambers of commerce and by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. It’s recognized by communities and definitely by families. B.C. needs child care — affordable, accessible, community-based and publicly funded.

We need to deal with the problem of space, quite simply, by ensuring that trained child care workers get adequate pay, not the survival salaries they receive now. Only then will centres be able to retain staff. Only then will centres not see a drain of skilled staff to the school system or to other fields.

Sadly, the answers that seem to be provided at the moment centre on bricks and mortar, on capital spending instead of running costs. What doesn’t seem to be understood by a government which prides itself on its business nous is that capital investment is worthless without operating costs, without running costs and without staff. More worryingly in this business-minded scenario is that public funds — taxpayers’ dollars — are now approved to go to private providers.

I said at the start of my statement that I wanted to talk about the commercialization of child care. The decision for taxpayers’ money going to private daycares makes it very attractive for people to start treating child care like a business rather than as part of the social fabric. Sadly, because of the lack of government commitment to child care there is still a sense among some people that child care is not part of our social fabric, although there is a huge social need for it, so that spectre of commercialization looms.

It isn’t a nightmare scenario, Madam Speaker. It is real. People who run child care centres across the province have received letters from Adroit Investments LLC. “Re: Purchase of your child care centre.” I quote from the letter: “We represent a large financial/child care group purchasing child care centres across Canada and looking for centres in British Columbia.”

One child care operator said that when she followed up with Adroit, the response was immediate. The purchase of her centre would take just three weeks.

Adroit Investments lists 123 Global on its correspondence, and 123 Global is a partner with corporate child care operators in the United States, Britain, Japan and China. It’s linked closely to ABC Learning Centres in Australia, a multi-million-dollar business operation. ABC Learning Centres is in fact the world’s largest publicly traded child care provider. I hope I am not alone in thinking that juxtaposing “publicly traded” and “child care provider” seems an oxymoron.

In Australia, where one in four child care spaces is run by ABC, the company has assets worth more than $4 billion Australian and made a profit on child care of $143 million. Under the present B.C. Liberal government’s announcement of public funds going to private operators, taxpayers’ money could go to these big-box stores, these big-box child care conglomerates. Big-box child care, which is already making a huge profit, will also get child care subsidy money for those families who need subsidy.


ABC recently said that it doesn’t plan to enter the Canadian market. However, 123 Global has a Canadian website set up, 123 Busy Beavers. Under the section “Find your centre,” the message is that they will be coming soon. So far they haven’t bought any centres in B.C., but they have bought in Alberta.

Lessons can be learned from where big-box, commercialized child care is operating. Australia, which effectively pioneered the commercialization of child care, is a case in point. Firstly, the big boxes have shareholders, and they’re running child care for a profit. Profit-seeking in the child care field usually means two things: increased fees and cost-cutting in the care of children.

In Australia child care costs have increased at double the rate of increases in household income since public funding for for-profit centres started. By 2006 the cost of child care was rising faster than almost any other good or service.

Big-box child care doesn’t mean a solution to the shortage of spaces. On the whole, they’re not in rural

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areas, they’re not in low-income neighbourhoods, and it’s hard to find a space for an infant who has special needs. A recent survey in Australia found the country still short 100,000 places.

Perhaps most telling about the commercialization of child care is that in a recent survey in Australia 21 percent of corporate-chain workers said they wouldn’t send their children to the centre where they worked because of quality concerns. They’re worried about the impact of cost-cutting on the health and safety of their children. In Australia, as in B.C., the staff aren’t benefiting. The wages are still low.

A lot of it comes down to the fact that there are shareholders to satisfy and profits to be made. In Australia the government will argue, like here, that they’re spending on child care, but much of that money in Australia is going to the big-box operators. At least 40 percent of the revenue earned by Australia’s largest child care company comes from government subsidies.

People may say: “That’s Australia; this is Canada.” But this B.C. Liberal government is opening doors to the system. It is accepting that private operators can get public dollars. It’s not standing up to say that the move of big-box child care into our province will not help deal with the crisis in spaces, will not help staff earn a living wage and, most importantly, will not provide our children with the start that they need if they’re going to thrive through life.

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R. Cantelon:…. I think the community-based solutions are the best way to go……

C. Trevena: I agree with some of what the member opposite was saying. Non-profit child care is a very, very good way forward for many families. I think

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group child care is a very good way forward for many families.

I think the member opposite missed an important statement by the Minister of State for Childcare a few weeks ago, where the minister of state said that $12 million of capital funding was going to be made available to private operators, not non-profit. Non-profit is a very good way forward for child care, but these were going to go to private operators.

The member also seemed to miss my statement that we are getting approaches by large operators, big-box child care providers, here in B.C. Letters have gone out to child care providers across B.C. I know that in my own constituency child care providers have received these letters asking if their child care is for sale.

The door is open with $12 million, some of which can go to private operators. The door is open for the commercialization of child care, which — it seems the member opposite agrees with me — is not the way forward. The way forward is for small operators, for family operators and for group child care. I’m very pleased to hear that. I hope the member will also talk to his minister of state about this and encourage her to go that way.

He also mentions that there are grants for training and for wages for staff, which is very useful, but the staff don’t need just grants for training. They need money for wages. Many staff get trained. Many people get trained and can get a job very easily if they wish, but they would have to be earning $14 an hour and can’t afford to.

I’d also like to bring to the member’s attention the number of child care centres that have closed because they can’t find the staff. This is why I say that we have a real child care crisis in this province.

Here in Victoria alone, Beacon Gardens has closed a toddler program because they couldn’t get staff. A second program that was going to be opened also closed because they couldn’t get staff. Blanshard Community Centre closed their preschool and after-school programs because they couldn’t get staff. Harvard Daycare closed because they couldn’t get staff.


In fact — and I think it’s just outside the member’s constituency; it’s in the member for Cowichan-Ladysmith’s constituency — the Ladysmith Children’s Centre closed in August because they couldn’t staff. There is now no group child care in Ladysmith.

The Comox Valley and Beaufort children’s centres are threatened with closure because they can’t get staff. On the mainland we’ve got the Cariboo Centre closing because they can’t get staff.

There is a crisis in child care. There is the fact that we have many centres that need staff. We have many parents that want to have child care. At every centre I have visited, I ask: “What’s your waiting list like?” Most of them laugh at me. They say, “Of course we’ve got a waiting list,” and they’ll bring out a thick folder of names of families who are desperate to get child care. You talk to those families who want to get child care, and they’re desperate. They just need space.

           Child care is not a commodity. Child care is a necessity for our society.