The B.C. government could set new fee caps on child care spaces, under legislation introduced Tuesday, as it struggles to meet its promise for universal $10-a-day spaces.
Premier John Horgan’s cabinet will get new power to set a variety of caps on child care fees under one of the new bills, though it’s not entirely clear at what rate or when such measures would begin.
“This legislation is really about giving the ministers authority to look at what’s the best way to fund affordability, to create new regulations for example, including the ability to set a limit on childcare fees for parents,” said Minister of State Katrina Chen.
“At this moment we are still exploring different options.”
The government already caps fees on new child care operators who want to access the Child Care Fee Reduction program. That program gives operators up to $350 a month to reduce the cost of an infant or toddler space, but in return requires them to keep rates below the 70th percentile within their geographic region.
On Southern Vancouver Island the cap is $1,400 a month for infants and $1,318 a month for toddlers.
Some child care operators, however, have complained the fee caps cut into their profitability so much that they are unable to expand and create new spaces within the financial limits. Of the 26,000 new child care spaces promised by the government, only 6,000 net new licensed spaces are actually open so far.
Chen said expanding the fee cap to other child care operators is one option, but that the new legislation, if passed, will allow the cabinet to implement future affordability changes directly.
The caps are still far above the $10-a-day child care system the B.C. NDP promised in the 2017 election. Six years later, only approximately 2,500 parents at 53 child care centres pay $10-a-day, funded entirely by the federal government through pilot projects. April’s provincial budget promised to expand $10-a-day to 3,750 more children at 75 sites. Ottawa has also promised to cost-share future $10-a-day spaces.
Tuesday’s legislation also proposed a new public registry for Early Childhood Educators, allowing parents to search the accreditation and status of the ECE workers who care for their children.
“This new legislation will increase that oversight to make sure that there is a public early childhood educators registry with a list of early childhood educators who are qualified to do the work, so parents know who are the professionals looking after their young kids,” said Chen.
There is already an internal ECE registrar within the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but the legislation will expand its powers to conduct investigations, review complaints and share that information publicly, said Chen.
It will also list the post-secondary institutions that provide accredited training, ensuring parents can make sure a person’s ECE credentials are authentic.
None of the changes, however, are expected to be in place any time soon.
The legislature adjourns June 17, and it’s unlikely the legislation will be passed before then, meaning it will be up for debate again in October with potential implementation likely in 2022 at the earliest.