It’s not $10-a-day, but the NDP has unveiled a sweeping, billion-dollar new child care program.
While the province says its eventual goal is a universal child care system, the plan delivered in Budget 2018 takes a targeted approach, heavily favouring licensed child care facilities.
“Budget 2018 marks the beginning of a made in B.C. universal child care program,” Finance Minister Carole James said.
That program won’t be universal to start, and the party’s ubiquitous campaign slogan of “$10-a-day childcare” appears nowhere in Tuesday’s budget.
“It’s a 10-year-plan. We are making a bold, significant move in this budget, you will see families receiving support for childcare,” James said.
“As we go along,there will be people, in fact, who are paying less than $10-a-day.”
The new Child Care BC program, funded over the next three years, is broken into two pieces.
First is a new child care benefit of up to $1,250 per child per month.
Families earning under $45,000 per year will be eligible for the full amount, while those earning under $111,000 will benefit on a sliding scale. The NDP says the plan will apply to up to 86,000 families by the time it’s fully implemented in 2021.
The benefits will be paid directly to eligible licensed service providers and will replace the existing child care subsidy offered under the BC Liberals.
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The second component is a plan to reduce fees at licensed child care providers who opt into the program, through a new direct subsidy.
That program will provide up to $350 per month for infants and toddlers in group care, and up to $200 per year for those in family care.
Kids aged three to five will be eligible for up to $100 per month for group care and $60 per month for family care.
Funding for the program comes partly from the previously announced $153 million Early Learning and Child Care agreement with Ottawa.
The budget lays out $41 million in spending this year, followed by $182 million, $357 million and $464 million for the following three years.
The bulk of the money, $630 million, goes to the new benefits and subsidies.
Pressed on whether the program, focused almost entirely on licensed facilities, discriminates against parents using unlicensed care, James disagreed.
“It’s part of the reason we’re increasing spaces,” James said.
“If you look at our program, we have a major spend when it comes to increasing spaces to provide exactly that support for families, and I would expect there will be a number of providers who will be happy to move to licensed care.”
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To that effect, $237 million of the $1-billion plan will go to the creation of 22,000 new licensed child care spaces, maintaining existing spaces, and increasing the flexibility of hours at care facilities.
As a part of that program, the province says it will also offer start-up grants to unlicensed providers to help them get accreditation. Once accredited, they will qualify for the fee reduction subsidies.
The province will also partner with Ottawa to launch a series of pilot projects looking at ways to provide reduced-cost spaces in communities around the province.
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The province is spending a further $136 million on training for early child care educators, including new money for post-secondary training, a move cheered by the Early Child Educators of B.C.
“I think it’s really exciting, it’s historic and I feel very optimistic,” said president Charlene Grey.
“We didn’t see specific details, but we certainly saw the commitment with the level of funding they’re providing.”
The province is predicting the child care sector will bring on 2,300 new early child care educators by 2021.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that even though the NDP didn’t follow through with the $10-a-day daycare, the new benefits are a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s on track to move us toward affordable and universal child care,” said Iglika Ivanova.
Parents speaking up
Parent Ali Moore says money helps, but living in Vancouver, she wonders where the government is going to find space when real estate and rent is at a premium.
Moore said there are better ideas, like Ontario’s junior Kindergarten program where kids can start school at the age of four.
“It’s a government-funded childcare program really, and then it takes the burden of the system because you can create that many more spaces for two and three-year-olds,” said Moore. “And those kids that would have been in the two and three class, you can create that many more childcare spaces.”
Natalia Myles says grants will help, but that a $10-a-day care would have been better.
“Down the road, I was really hoping for something like that for new parents that would be starting families in B.C.”
Both parents have waited on several group care waitlists over the years, with no luck.
~With files from Emily Lazatin and Robyn Crawford