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B.C. budget ‘really good news’ for child care, says advocate, though not everyone is sold

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Author: 
Peng, Jenny
Publication Date: 
20 Feb 2019
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VANCOUVER—The B.C. government’s investments in child care in the 2019 budget have “exceeded” expectations, says an advocate for families, daycare workers and early childhood educators.

“It’s really good news for child care, and it didn’t really get the attention it deserved,” said Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC.

The budget for child care increased to $366 million this year, up from $182 million last year. The province had vowed in 2018 to spend a total of $1 billion on child care over the following three years, encompassing funding for more than 24,000 new spaces, fee reductions for up to 50,000 families and “enhanced support” for the development of early childhood educators.

The amount is enough to have a “meaningful impact” on the child-care sector in B.C., she said.

Now Gregson and her Coalition colleagues will begin lobbying for a provincial wage grid for early childhood educators, lifting the lowest-paid — who make roughly $15 an hour — up to at least $25 an hour.

“We will be advocating for more of the $10-a-day prototype sites to be announced so that more families are paying $10 a day and we’ll be strongly pressuring them to work with school districts and municipalities to create more public and not-for-profit child-care spaces,” she added.

While Gregson was impressed with the New Democrats’ promised investments, one economist warned that promises are not guarantees.

Another relief for families in the budget is the B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit, which will replace the Early Childhood Tax Benefit. Tied to family income, with most support at the bottom of the economic ladder, the new program budgets $133 million a year until 2021. It would provide up to $1,600 a year for a family’s first child, increasing to $2,600 for two children and $3,400 for three children.

But Marina Adshade at UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics doesn’t see the new child benefit as a commitment because it’s promised to take effect in October 2020 — a year and a half away. Therefore, it’s not really in the budget at all.

“There’s no guarantee that that’s actually going to happen. First of all, we could have an election between now and then. And there’s another budget between now and then, and so there’s nothing stopping them from cutting the budget next year.”

Finance Minister Carole James told reporters on Tuesday that it takes a year to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to implement such a program.

Adshade said the reason the B.C. government is silent on the $10-a-day child-care initiative in this year’s budget is because it’s already failing to deliver on its promise to create 24,000 new child-care spaces.

Finding child-care workers to staff those new spaces will be difficult in a province with such low unemployment, she said.

“In B.C. we have an unemployment rate of around four and a half percent,” Adshade said. “You’re not going to magically be able to find … the daycare (spaces) they promised.”

The struggle for families was highlighted in a new poll by Research Co. The company surveyed 631 people in Metro Vancouver who had children up to 18 years of age. In Vancouver, 79 percent of parents said “making ends meet” is hard, compared to 52 percent in Surrey and 57 percent in other Metro Vancouver municipalities.

Over a third of Metro Vancouver parents, 35 percent, have found it hard to pay for child care. Half of parents in Metro Vancouver said it was “very difficult” or “moderately difficult” to save money, and 45 percent felt the same way about paying for day-to-day expenses.

The poll was conducted between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5. The data was statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Metro Vancouver. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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Entered Date: 
27 Feb 2019
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