The provincial government’s plan to invest in child care is promising, but B.C. still has a long way to go, say child-care industry leaders.
In its recent budget, the government announced its plan to invest more than $1 billion in child care to create more than 22,000 spaces and offer monthly benefits of $1,250 to 86,000 families.
“It’s really an exciting and historic time, after years of our concern about parents paying really high fees and early-childhood educators not earning the wages they deserve and not enough spaces for families,” said Lynell Anderson, researcher with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. “We’re really pleased that now we have a chance to turn that corner and actually begin to make child care more affordable, to build more spaces and to invest in the workforce, which is really critical.”
Anderson was in Kelowna this week to speak about the provincial budget as it relates to child care.
B.C. lags far behind other provinces when it comes to child care, she said.
“Canada has been ranked the weakest among wealthy countries on child care . . . and B.C. is behind other provinces,” said Anderson. “Almost every other province already has processes in place to help providers lower parent fees and raise staff wages. We’re playing catch-up, and I hope we’re going to leapfrog over and show real leadership in Canada.”
Melissa Hunt, executive director of the Kelowna Child Care Society, said families in the Okanagan are struggling to find affordable child care.
“Right now there are waiting lists because there aren’t enough child-care educators to teach children in those spaces,” she said. “I think it’s great that the government has invested so much money, but we do have a lot of work to do.”
Anderson said she will continue to advocate for the government to increase wages for early-childhood educators.
“That’s the one thing they say they’re addressing, but they don’t have specifics yet,” she said.
Hunt echoed Anderson’s concerns about the need to increase wages of early-childhood educators.
The low wages make recruitment and retention of child-care workers difficult, she said.
“It’s a very important job, and we need to recognize that,” said Hunt.