B.C. finance minister Carole James says Budget 2018 marks the beginning of a made-in-B.C. universal child care program.

“This budget offers the largest investment in child care in B.C. history, with over $1 billion child care investment over three years,” says James. “It’s going to take time to deliver and that’s why we’re starting right away in a big way in this budget.”

The plan includes a new child care benefit of up to $1,250 per month, per child, in licensed care on a sliding scale for families making up to $110,000. It will start in September, replacing current subsidies, and the province says up to 86,000 families will benefit.

“Families that are earning less than $45,000 a year will pay next to nothing for their childcare,” James says.

Beginning in April, licensed child care operators will also be able to opt into a fee reduction program, which will lower the cost of care by up to $350 per month, per child ? regardless of income.

The province is also promising to create 22,000 new child care spaces, train and retain more early childhood educators, and provide incentives for unlicensed care providers to become licensed.

The government says this costly, three-year plan will set the province on a path to universal childcare.  But there’s no mention of the $10-a-day child care for all families promised during the election campaign.

“It’s a 10-year plan,” says James. “We are making a bold, significant move in this budget and as we go along, there will be people in fact who are paying less than $10 aday.”

Families not in licensed care won’t benefit but stakeholders say it’s a good start.

“It will create spaces, it will reduce costs, it will eliminate costs for low income families,” says B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger. “I think it’s a bold first step and we totally support it.”

“It takes time to build new spaces, it takes time to train new childhood educators,” says Iglika Ivanova of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Even if we had all the money in the world we couldn’t do it tomorrow so it’s reasonable they would take time.”

And with the lowest unemployment rate in the country, business leaders are hopeful the billion-dollar plan will make it easier for parents to go back to work.

“We hear in every business community around B.C., ‘if I could get affordable, quality child care for my family I could participate in the workforce’,” says Val Litwin of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. “This is a huge opportunity for the economy.”

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