Provincial Hansard – Child Care Spaces in Whistler


Monday, March 2, 2009
Oral Questions

C. Trevena: The Teddy Bear Daycare in Whistler is closing at the end of May, and the operators have told parents in a letter that it’s because “the day care space will not be available during the 2010 Olympic period.”

Last spring when the issue of child care in Whistler was raised in this House, the minister of state advised parents to go to another centre, which is about 20 kilometres away. I’d like to advise the minister that that centre is closing, and the centre in Whistler is closing, and there is nothing available for parents in Whistler or the surrounding areas. I’d like to ask if the minister of state can give some advice to working parents in Whistler on what they should do about their child care.

Hon. L. Reid: I thank the member opposite for her question. This government continues to oversee the largest child care budget ever — an enormous sum of money. We continue to work with the individuals in Whistler, and I, in fact, have visited there many times in terms of addressing the recruitment issues, the retention issues, the real estate issues. We’ll continue to work with them, because our challenge is to continue to provide day care services across British Columbia, and they continue to be in regular contact with our offices.

C. Trevena: To the minister of state. I’m very intrigued that she’s carrying on talking to the various communities in Whistler, because since she started talking we’ve lost 46 spaces in the community, and we don’t actually have any space for parents who are looking for child care.

The operators of the Teddy Bear Daycare are a major company. They’re Whistler Blackcomb, which is part of the Intrawest group, and that company recognizes that child care is important for the community and for a successful business.

In the letter to parents which was informing them of the closure, it actually says: “We realize that quality child care is essential to the success of the community.” Whistler Blackcomb recognizes it. B.C. Chamber of Commerce recognizes it. The board of trade recognizes it. But seriously, I think the minister is paying lip service to it.

I’d like to ask the minister: if the Olympics is supposed to attract people to British Columbia, what message is being given to families? The fact that these child care spaces are closing as we approach the Olympics — is this the minister’s legacy for the Olympics, for the working families in Whistler?

Hon. L. Reid: Absolutely, this government understands the importance of building child care space, which is why we’ve built 6,000 new child care spaces across British Columbia. We have invested $34 million in capital construction, and we continue to provide subsidies to 90,000 licensed child care spaces. That is double what it was when we came to government.


Oral Questions
WEDNESDAY, March 4, 2009

C. Trevena: On Monday the Minister of State for Childcare was unable to offer any assurances to families in Whistler who need child care spaces. Last Friday Spring Creek closed its doors with 22 spaces for three-to-five-year-olds gone, and 20 spaces for infants and toddlers have also gone. In May we hear that the Teddy Bear Daycare is closing its doors, so losing another 16 spaces.

The latter is closing because of the Olympics and the former because they simply can’t get the staff. The wait-list is closed at the only other child care centre in town, the Whistler Children’s Centre, and there are 96 families waiting for child care there.

I’d like to ask the Minister of State for Childcare: what’s she going to do about this?

Hon. L. Reid: I can tell the members that we continue to work with both of those centres, and certainly some of them have some credentialing issues — no question. Oftentimes the training is undertaken in jurisdictions outside of British Columbia, but our staff and in the early childhood education registry are fast-tracking those applications as they come forward.

We are working with the centres in terms of providing additional space, and indeed, we have a centre today that has space. We have a centre today that has some additional staff. We’re going to do our very best to pull those together to continue to deliver child care services.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

C. Trevena: It’s very interesting that the minister says that she is working with these centres. She was working with them last summer when we first started asking these questions — last spring. Since then we’ve got two gone and about 46 spaces gone. I’m a bit concerned about how the working is going to continue.

The minister really seems to fail to recognize the crisis. There is nothing in Whistler. There is almost nothing in Pemberton. In Squamish…. Yes, they got a new centre. In 2007 they were able to open their doors, but they didn’t get the funding to create the spaces. So they have a centre there with 20 spaces, eight of which can’t be opened because they can’t get the staff — to hire them. [

So I would like for the minister to actually understand the reality and explain to the people of Whistler how they are going to ensure that those 96 families — plus the other 40 or so who have extra children who can’t find space — how those people are going to find child care in the next two months.

plus the other 40 or so who have extra children who can’t find space, how those people are going to find child care in the next two months.

Hon. L. Reid: We continue to provide subsidies for 25,000 to 27,000 children each month to attend child care. We continue to open child care spaces across British Columbia — 6,000 new spaces. We, in fact, have doubled the number of child care spaces from 45,000 to 90,000 that we subsidize.

Are we making progress in child care as we go forward? Absolutely, we are. Will we continue to work with the centres in Whistler? Yes. Is Whistler a unique situation? Yes. One of the individuals has absolutely indicated that enrolment is actually going down in one of those centres because those children are not attending today because they’re enrolled in ski programs. So there are unique facets to this discussion that I would be happy to brief the member opposite on.