Hansard: Child Care in the Legislature


TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2008, Afternoon Sitting
View online


J. Horgan: My question is to the Minister of Education. She will know that on February 1, the Cowichan school district started a process to close four schools. Four months have gone by, and in that time she has received a report from her special adviser speaking to the need for those four schools. But more importantly, today parents are not just looking for spaces for their children to go to school; they’re looking for spaces for child care. With the closure of those four schools, 260 spaces will be lost.

It’s a very simple question to the Minister of Education. Will she stand in this place today and assure that those spaces will remain for child care in September?

Hon. S. Bond: Well, the member opposite is correct. In fact, this government did respond. We sent a special adviser to do work in the Cowichan school district, because we in fact expressed concerns, as well, about schools that are important — schools that parents were very concerned about. The member opposite knows that I had met with a number of parent groups about the Cowichan school district.

The report has been received. We will be presenting that report to the board of education. The recommendations are significant. They certainly point to some significant concerns for me as Minister of Education, but that report will be passed on to the board of education for their review and then made public.

J. Horgan: I know the parents in the Cowichan Valley will be waiting anxiously for Monday night with respect to the school spaces, but this is a particular question about child care. It’s a crisis in the valley. There are not enough spaces. If these schools go down, 240 child care spaces at a minimum — up to 260 — will be lost. Can the minister confirm that the report that will be issued by the board from the special adviser will include those child care spaces? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Bond: I’m sure the member opposite would want, first of all, to allow the board of education to see the report that’s been prepared. It will be made public as quickly as possible after that. We had an excellent special adviser that did the work and looked at the issue of school use. One of the important considerations was the capital plan or lack thereof in this particular school district. All of those issues have been considered. There are a series of recommendations. The board will see the report, and it will be made public.

D. Routley: As a former trustee I can tell the minister that there is a capital plan that keeps coming up every year, and that is to close more of our neighbourhood schools due to funding shortages brought on by that minister. She is imposing growing deficits in our community.

We are seeing real people, real families, real children losing their child care spaces, real workers who can’t take jobs because of it, and real businesses who suffer. Schools in our district are at capacity if you consider school-age children and child care spaces. The minister said she’ll find spaces for those displaced students, but there’s no such help for the parents who will lose their child care space.

This minister should stop spewing out numbers and face the real truth. Families are suffering by her policies. Will she finally coordinate her efforts with the Minister of State for Childcare and ensure that those spaces remain open for the people of the Cowichan Valley and their children?

Hon. S. Bond: We recognize the concerns that parents in the Cowichan school district have expressed. The member opposite knows full well that a very, very capable special adviser was placed to do an incredibly good job of looking at all of the issues, which includes the necessity for child care spaces.

But one thing we are going to do on this side of the House is talk about numbers. We’re going to talk about the fact that the Cowichan school district received a funding increase of $3.7 million since 2001-2002 at a time when they have lost almost 1,400 students. We’ve put record levels of funding into public education, and we’re going to continue to do that on this side of the House.


C. Trevena: The minister talks about numbers, but I think we are talking about real people here. We’re talking about an operating room nurse who will lose child care. We’re talking about people who are invested in the community. We’re talking about a mom who wants to go back to school, who won’t be able to go back to school because of the loss of child care spaces.

This isn’t just an issue of the Cowichan Valley; it is an issue of the whole province. Everywhere people are scrambling. In the Minister of State for Childcare’s own riding there are 80 people who turned up for an open house trying to find a child care space and basically begging providers for space.

My question is for the Minister of State for Childcare. There is a big problem in this province with child care. There is a crisis. When will she recognize that, and when will she actually do something about it — not just talk about new spaces being created but create real spaces for real parents who have real problems getting child care?

Hon. L. Reid: So $300 million of investment, and I’m happy to say that I’ve just canvassed these issues with the critic not so long ago, so she knows of what she speaks in terms of attempting not, frankly, to be straightforward with the public in the province of British Columbia. She knows…


Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. L. Reid: …that she hasn’t been straightforward, and she knows, quite honestly, that 2,200 spaces have been created and that, frankly, our goal was 2,000 spaces. We have exceeded by 200 spaces the number of child care spaces created in British Columbia.

Dollars have gone out for subsidy. Dollars have gone out for child care operating funding. Dollars have been put in place for recruitment and retention of staff. Everything that the sector has asked for has been delivered, and indeed, that….


Mr. Speaker: Members.

Minister, partway through your statement you used the word “straightforward,” referring to the member from the other side. Would you withdraw that statement, please.

Hon. L. Reid: If I offended, I withdraw.

[End of question period.] [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2008
Afternoon Sitting
Volume 34, Number 3

C. Trevena: Teddy Bear Daycare in Whistler is due to close. Apparently, it’s not an appropriate use of the space with the Olympics coming.

But when the parents turned to the Minister of State for Childcare for help, she wrote them with some alternatives: child care in Squamish, which is a 54-kilometre one-way trip for parents and their children; child care in Pemberton, where one centre is full and the other is closing; or child care in Spring Creek, which is only 40 kilometres a day but already close to capacity.

It’s not surprising that the parents were flabbergasted and described the minister’s response as ridiculous. I’d like the Minister of State for Childcare to explain to those parents, who are desperately needing child care, what they’re supposed to do.

Hon. L. Reid: It is about the spaces in British Columbia. I am more than happy to put on the record yet again that since we came to government, we’ve created 5,500 additional child care spaces in the province of British Columbia.


Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. L. Reid: We have in fact been the only government who’s lifted the rates for out-of-school care, the only government who has in fact looked at extending the subsidy for children into the end of their sixth year.

When the community has asked for the deliverables, we have in fact responded.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

C. Trevena: Yes, the minister of state has responded, but the minister of state has given answers that provide no solution for parents either in Whistler or anywhere in the province. Parents are desperate.

The Minister of State for Childcare said in this House a couple of days ago: “Everything the sector has asked for has been delivered.” I have to say that parents say she’s wrong, providers say she’s wrong, early childhood educators say she’s wrong, chambers of commerce say she’s wrong, and businesses say she’s wrong.

I’d like the minister to tell those thousands of people how she’s planning to prove herself right.

Hon. L. Reid: I’m always delighted to talk about child care. We in fact have new partners in child care delivery that this province has never had in the past. We are building child care today with the B.C. housing association. We have in fact delivered child care where people live, closest to home. We have worked with individuals as partners, indeed, in terms of providing child care closest to where people work.

There are opportunities today to go forward. There are opportunities for us to continue to work closely with those who believe in the delivery of child care. I welcome that opportunity.