B.C. budget ‘lacklustre’ when it comes to childcare funding, says advocate

B.C. budget 'lacklustre' when it comes to childcare funding, says advocate
The architect of a childcare plan the B.C. NDP supported and promised to fund a few years ago says the 2021 provincial budget misses the mark.

The architect of a childcare plan the B.C. NDP supported and promised to fund a few years ago says the 2021 provincial budget misses the mark.

Sharon Gregson, the spokesperson for $10aDay, an organization that is pushing for fully funded affordable childcare, called the province’s budget “lacklustre” when it came to affordable child care.

“B.C.’s government must now improve on its lackluster 2021 budget by using new federal funds and the roadmap we’ve laid out for them in order to deliver on their election commitments, in alignment with the popular $10aDay Plan,” Gregson said in a release.

On Tuesday, the Horgan government earmarking billions for infrastructure, healthcare, and pandemic supports in the budget.

That included $233 million over three years to add 3,750 $10-a-day spaces to 2,500 spaces already existing and funded by the federal government.

Yet broken down annually, only $54 million of that is set to arrive in the current 2021/22 fiscal year, which is a far below the at least $250 million Gregson’s group had said is required annually to grow the system.

The budget also includes $3.1 billion in contingency funds and increased wage enhancement for early childhood educators to $4 per hour, driving up the median wage to around $25 an hour.

Childcare will continue to play a key role as our province moves towards recovery from the pandemic. The events of this past year have shown how childcare supports families by enabling parents, especially women, to go back to work. It supports business owners, and it helps build strong local economies that benefit everyone,” said Finance Minister Selina Robinson.

“These investments have positioned our childcare sector to support families so our economy can recover from COVID-19.”

ALSO READ: 8 things to know about B.C.’s 2021 budget

Horgan promised during the 2017 election that his government would implement an affordable child care program, largely based on what was proposed by Gregson’s organization, which urges B.C. to introduce $10-per-day full-time care and $7-per-day part-time childcare as well as no fees for parents with incomes under $45,000 annually.

In the most recent election, Horgan promised the NDP would commit $250 million towards child care operating funds each year, along with a capital program.

But while the province only made incremental steps towards affordable childcare, the Trudeau government announced in its federal budget Monday that it would allocate $30-billion over five years to develop a national $10-a-day childcare program.

“With or without federal support this is the minimum we expect in order to continue building B.C.’s child care system,” Lynell Anderson CPA CGA and family policy researcher, said. “Instead we see the province commit to only $233 million in total new funding over 3 years.”

However, both the B.C. Federation of Labour and the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) welcomed the province’s funding commitment towards affordable childcare.

“The big news is childcare — especially with the federal government’s commitment announced yesterday — and we’re also happy to see ongoing and some impressive new investments in seniors care, mental health and addictions, BC Parks, and poverty reduction. Overall, this budget shows that the government is committed to supporting British Columbians and leveraging the lessons of the pandemic,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU, in a press release.

Paul Kershaw, a UBC professor and founder of Generation Squeeze, an advocacy organization for affordability, said with a more than $9 billion deficit for 2021 and billions in contingency, the province has the money to fund more affordable childcare but is electing not to.

“If we are going to have that big a deficit, there was room to think about improving on the child care and housing affordability issues in particular, at least more than we are doing right now,” said Kershaw.

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RELATED: B.C. Budget 2021: Big spending, big debt, but little new aid for businesses

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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