Two years ago, the province was poised to make a major dent in the affordable child-care needs of families thanks to the British Columbia Early Learning and Child Care Agreement it signed with the feds but its efforts have lagged persistently well below the needs of this region.
That year, 2021, the federal government gave BC a one-time contribution of $349M to support the creation of thousands of new daycare spaces and the recruitment, training and retention of early child care providers in a bid to begin the creation of a countrywide $10-a-day child-care system.
But the province grossly underspent, leaving 89% of its first-year funding on the table. While it did create 1,200 additional daycare spaces in the first year of the agreement, it is nowhere near the provincial goal of 30K spaces the funding formula lays out for it over four years, and it would have to scramble in the remaining two, in order to meet even half of that goal by 2025.
To date, there are only 15 $10-a-day centres operating in Victoria, and one in Saanichton. The race is now on to create thousands of additional spaces, based on its remaining estimated allocated budget of $150.2M.
The lag is perhaps most evident in the gap between the number of cumulative spaces funded (7, 286) for 2023/24 and the number of new spaces that are operational (1,973), according to infographic data for Vancouver Island available on the Ministry of Education and Child Care website.
- B.C. boosts childcare funding for preschool and school-aged kids
- Victoria looking at measures to address gap of 4,431 child-care spaces
The province’s federally funded New Spaces Fund supports the creation, expansion and relocation of child care facilities proposing to create new, licensed child care spaces.
Public-sector organizations, including local governments, school boards, health authorities, Crown corporations, and public post-secondary institutions, Indigenous governments, First Nation schools and First Nation independent schools are eligible to apply and yet, the
Indigenous-focused, trauma-informed child care centre currently being constructed in Colwood does not appear to be benefitting from any of the federal-to-province New Spaces funding.
The centre, being built on Colwood Elementary school grounds and owned by the Sooke School District, will create 48 spaces for Indigenous children up to six years of age by the time it opens in 2025.
It will be run by Hulitan Family and Community Services Society. The City of Colwood committed to $311.6k in fee reductions and grant contributions to the build but Huitan CFSS is still asking for $625K in donations through the United Way of South Vancouver Island to cover operating costs and the purchase of essential furnishings it will need to run its programs. The funding triangle presents as a symptom of the province’s lack of performance.
The failure to build more $10-a-day child-care capacity in the region has the biggest impact on lower-income families, Indigenous families, lone-parent families, families in underserved and rural communities; those families with caregivers who work non-standard hours; racialized; and children with disabilities and children needing enhanced or individual supports.
They simply can’t wait any longer.
The region’s failure to ramp up affordable child-care access doesn’t just impact families, it also impacts the local economy. According to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, affordable child care can have multiple economic knock-on effects. The Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives (CCPA) agreed.
In its Saving BC’s Affordable Criss in Child Care report written prior to the announcement of the federal child-care agreement the CCPA suggested “the increased workforce participation of mothers of young children would grow BC’s economy by $3.9 billion per year.”
When parents have access to affordable child-care services, they are more likely to be active participants in the local workforce, boosting productivity and economic growth in the region. Moreover, child-care providers themselves create jobs and contribute to the local economy. More affordable child care services in Victoria is a win-win that benefits families, children, and the broader community.
It’s time the province got a move on.
Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Capital Daily