May was Child Care Month in British Columbia. In addition to honouring child-care providers for making a difference for B.C. families, the Province celebrated the month by announcing more money to train Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), more money to create new licensed child-care spaces, and a new online map to help parents find those spaces.
Critics say these investments aren’t enough – that our plan doesn’t address the affordability of those spaces – believing that the only way to address affordability is through universal child care.
Introducing universal child care here in B.C. would cost about $1.5 billion. It’s a program that Quebec embraced in 1997, but it has proven expensive for taxpayers. Escalating costs have forced the Quebec government to change their one-price-for-all program and increase fees based on family income. While the costs to Quebec parents may still seem low, Quebec also generally has one of the highest overall tax burdens in Canada.
Our government has made important investments in child care support, while keeping the cost of taxes low and the provincial budget balanced, so as not to make our kids pay the cost of today’s government services.
What is a given is government’s continued investment in child care that addresses accessibility and costs for parents and child-care providers. According to a BC Stats Parent Child Care Survey (2015), parents ranked the importance of location and hours of operation higher than affordability, and 77% of parents reported that they did not need to be wait-listed for a spot in their current child-care facility. Parents who are in the process of looking for child care in their community may benefit from a number of programs and services that the Province offers.
For example, we offer child care subsidies to lower-income B.C. families, helping nearly 20,000 children each month. Recent changes to the subsidy program now exempt child support payments from the income calculations for the subsidy, which is making more families eligible to receive this additional benefit. We’re also investing approximately $146 million a year in the B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit for 180,000 B.C. families with children under the age of six.
To help child-care providers keep costs down so fewer costs are passed on to parents, we provide Child Care Operating Funding to more than 5,000 child-care providers throughout B.C., as well as minor capital funding to help upgrade equipment and major capital funding to create new child-care spaces.
Under the B.C. Early Years Strategy, we committed to creating 13,000 new licensed child-care spaces by 2020, and we’re getting closer to that goal. Since November 2014, we have invested $26.5 million to create more than 4,300 spaces throughout the province. This builds on the more than 111,000 child-care spaces we currently fund.
As we continue to create more spaces, we expect that the increase in supply will ultimately help to decrease the cost of those spaces. We will work across all levels of government to encourage our partners to invest in child-care spaces and help make it less costly for child-care providers to build their businesses.
With the increase in the number of quality, licensed child-care spaces, we also need talented and well-trained ECEs. That’s why we’ve continued to support the ECE Bursary Program to the tune of more than $2 million since May 2014. To date, more than 750 bursaries have been awarded to help people pursue a career in this important field.
We know that child care is a big decision for parents, and we’re committed to making their search for quality, licensed child care easier. Now, with just a few clicks of a mouse, our new Child Care Map provides busy parents quick at-a-glance information that shows – for each facility in a parent’s desired location – what programs are offered, if there are any available spaces, contact information, hours of operation and more. This is one of only three child care maps in all of Canada that shows which centres have vacancies. It’s available at: www.gov.bc.ca/findchildcare
And, through the Single Parent Employment Initiative, B.C. parents on income or disability assistance can train for a new job and receive free child care while they are upgrading their skills and for a year after they find employment in their chosen field. To date, more than 2,800 parents have enrolled in the program and are building a better future for their families.
We know you can’t put a price on peace of mind when it comes to making sure your children are safe and well cared for. That’s why quality, licensed child care is vitally important. For more information on child care in B.C., visit: www.gov.bc.ca/childcare