Karin Kirkpatrick

Affordable childcare long way off under NDP

Everyone wants to be able to provide for their families. To put good food on the table, give their children the best possible childhood, go on the occasional vacation, and put a little money away every month in savings. But for so many British Columbians, this is becoming harder than ever.

It feels like we’re in the midst of a relentless middle-class squeeze. Suddenly we’re reevaluating what food we can buy at the grocery store, whether we can afford to put our children in the sport they love, and maybe even considering moving to a province where housing prices seem a bit more manageable.

And it’s not just our own subjective experience. Recent polling from Research Co. has found that nearly two-thirds of parents in the Fraser Valley have experienced setbacks in making ends meet. Sixty-seven percent of parents across the province now acknowledge undergoing financial stress “frequently” or “occasionally,” — up a staggering 19 points since February of 2022.

One of the most significant costs facing B.C. families is that of childcare. It remains incredibly difficult to find quality, affordable daycare for our children, even after seven years of promises from the current government.

Despite the NDP’s 2017 election promise of $10-a-day childcare, precious few spaces at that rate have actually materialized — more than half a decade later. In the Fraser Valley, less than 600 of the tens of thousands of needed childcare spaces are available at the $10-a-day rate.

This $10-a-day program is primarily funded by the federal government, yet of the hundreds of millions of dollars provided to B.C. for the first year of the joint program, only 11 percent has been spent on creating childcare spaces. The NDP appears to be holding on to the rest of the funding while thousands of families struggle to find the child care they desperately need. This is not the province’s money. This is money that should be going back into the pockets of B.C. parents — not sitting in government accounts.

Another problem we are seeing is the discrepancy between spaces that have been funded and those that are operational and benefiting families.

While the government wants to celebrate the already far too-low 1,223 spaces funded this fiscal year, only a staggering 75 of those are actually open and making a difference for families. I thought that last year’s 1,739 operational spaces were incredibly disappointing, but 75 is so depressing it’s almost laughable.

Here in the Fraser Valley, where about 1,800 new spaces are needed to keep up with population growth, this government has created just six operational spaces this fiscal year.

While this dismal performance would alone cast doubt on government’s ability to deliver, unfortunately, the NDP’s mismanagement hasn’t just resulted in slow space creation — in some places it has contributed to a loss of affordable spaces.

In addition to the $10-a-day program, the NDP also created the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative (CCFRI), which provides funding directly to childcare centres to lower their rates by half. However, major delays, bureaucracy, and unrealistic and confusing expectations for providers have resulted in the mass departure of 1,663 facilities from the program this year. This means the loss of tens of thousands of much-needed affordable childcare spaces for B.C. families.

As a result, the financial burden has been shifted from the government to childcare providers and then to the parents, who are left grappling with unanticipated and exorbitant expenses at a time when they are least able to afford it.

This government fails to understand that livelihoods hang in the balance due to their mismanagement of this sector — one that so many people depend on. In the midst of an affordability crisis that is making everything from groceries, to gas, to housing more expensive, middle-class British Columbians are struggling to keep up.

It’s time to provide people with the affordable childcare solutions they deserve, and to give them the break they need from this worsening middle-class squeeze.


Originally published in the Fraser Valley Today, October 18th, 2023

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