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Christy Clark announces $76-million Early Years Strategy

The Christy Clark government plans to invest $76 million on child care over the next three years, including 2,000 new licensed daycare spaces across the province, the premier announced Wednesday.

At the Dorothy Lam Children’s Centre, Clark played with Lego and read children’s books to preschoolers before outlining her government’s Early Years Strategy, which was given a brief mention in her government’s budget, tabled this week.

“In particular when I meet with women and moms and dads, I hear about the demands of child care, about the need to make sure child care is accessible, that it’s affordable, and that it provides the quality that parents expect from it,” Clark told reporters.

The strategy is an eight-year government commitment to fund 13,000 new licensed child care spaces in B.C., with the first 2,000 spaces made available in the next three years, at a cost of $32 million.

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Effective April 2015, a new early childhood tax benefit would be provided to 180,000 B.C. families who earn less than $100,000 per year with children under the age of six, at a cost of $146 million per year.

Under the new tax credit, eligible families would receive $55 per month, or $660 per year, per child. Households with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 would receive a partial payment.

Clark also pledged to spend $37 million “in support of improving the overall quality of early years services for children, including child care,” and $7 million to strengthen the internal coordination of early child care development programs themselves.

The strategy would include an amendment to the School Act to ensure school boards incorporate early childhood education in schools to promote “seamless” access to facilities for both classes and child care – similar to the system at Dorothy Lam Children’s Centre, which is located next to Elsie Roy elementary school.

Clark linked early childhood advancement with a strong economy.

“If we want to grow a healthy economy in our province, it means getting the fundamentals right. And one of the key fundamentals is making sure families are properly supported,” she said, adding the spending should be considered part of the B.C. Jobs Plan, an economic development plan launched last September.

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“We do not believe that British Columbian families need more Band-Aids or quick-fix solutions. What they need is a long-term plan, backed by a strong funding commitment,” she said.

The details, such as the location of new child care spaces, have not yet been worked out, said Stephanie Cadieux, minister of children and family development.

Needs “vary from community to community, depending on availability and, of course, on the cost of providing the care in those communities,” she said.