Child care sets B.C. political parties apart

Tom Fletcher, Terrace Standard

VICTORIA – Child care policies offer a clear choice between the B.C. Liberals and the NDP in the May 14 provincial election.

Premier Christy Clark wants to take a provincially funded savings account set up for each child born since 2007, and hand out $1,200 to parents who open a Registered Education Savings Plan to begin saving for post-secondary training. Former premier Gordon Campbell established the fund when the B.C. government was enjoying budget surpluses, before the 2008 downturn in the world economy.

That’s added to the B.C. Liberal “early years strategy” that includes full-day kindergarten, $142 million for child care subsidies, $34 million for “Success by Six” programs in 225 communities, and an additional $32 million promised over three years to help create new licensed child care spaces.

NDP leader Adrian Dix has promised to cancel the RESP and other new spending, and redirect it to a “Family Bonus Program,” a direct subsidy of up to $70 per month, per child for low-income families starting in 2014.

The NDP plan would pay the full amount to families with annual income of $25,000 or less, with payments decreasing on a sliding scale to families with income under $66,000. Applying to all children under 18, the bonus program is projected to cost $210 million a year.

Platform highlights:

• The B.C. Conservative pre-election platform offers no specific programs for child care or early childhood education. Its September 2012 policy document supports “the principle that parents are the child’s first and most important teachers.”

B.C. Conservatives also support a school voucher system, “ensuring that taxpayers’ dollars follow the student to provincially approved educational options,” and the principle that social services be “delivered by community-based organizations rather than directly by government.”

• The B.C. Green platform promises to create “local child care trusts” monitored by the provincial government. Promised services include “child care, in-home support, emergency and crisis services, a guaranteed livable income and safe and adequate housing.”

The B.C. Green platform offers no costing estimate for any of its programs.

• The B.C. Liberals would require school districts to promote use of school property by licensed child care providers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and create a province-wide child care registry.

• The B.C. NDP would immediately double earnings exemption for employable income assistance recipients, and allow a further exemption for child maintenance payments.