Vancouver Sun: It's a long road to $10 child care, says think-tank report
It could take 10 years or more for B.C.’s New Democrat government to implement a plan to offer child care for $10 a day, according to an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Vancouver parents pay a median monthly fee of $1,292 for full-time toddler care, second only to Toronto, while parents in Burnaby and Richmond pay $1,200, according to CCPA’s new report Time Out: Child Care Fees in Canada.
Parents of infants pay even more, about $1,360 in Vancouver.
Families’ child-care costs in B.C. are second only to the cost of shelter, said CCPA economist Iglika Ivanova.
“In B.C., mothers of young children participate in the workforce less than women in other provinces, because they can’t afford those fees,” she said.
By contrast — 20 years into their child-care subsidy program — Quebec parents pay less than $200 a month for infant care, according to the left-leaning think-tank.
“It sounds like a big gap … but it has happened elsewhere,” she said. “I think it will take 10 years.”
The provincial government last week announced $33 million in grants to create 3,800 new child-care spaces in B.C. to build new capacity, especially in infant and toddler care, school-based care and in First Nations communities.
The funds are also directed at creating spaces in hubs with other community services and in workplaces.
Next February’s budget will offer some clues about how the government plans to address the massive gap between the current cost of child care and their $10-a-day goal, said Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen.
“When the cost of child care is almost the same as your monthly rent, you know there’s a problem,” she said. “We’ve looked at what we can deliver quickly to parents and what will take more time.
“We see affordable child care as part of a sustainable economy that gives us the kind of revenues we need to move to a universal daycare system over the long term,” she said.
According to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the government currently provides $92 million in operating funding directly to child-care providers.
That figure could be bolstered by the federal government’s $7.5-billion pledge to subsidize child care for low-income families during the next 11 years.
To begin chipping away at rising child-care costs, CCPA advocates capping fees and increasing funding to care providers, Ivanova said.
"We have free public education because the government funds schools, we have free health care because the government funds hospitals,” she said.
In Vancouver, 95 per cent of child-care facilities maintain a waiting list for children hoping to get in, while in Burnaby the figure is 84 per cent and in Richmond 78 per cent, according to the CCPA report.
“You can’t just walk into most child-care facilities, fill out a form and get in,” said Ivanova. “That doesn’t happen.”
Helen Ward, president of Kids First Parents Association of Canada, called waiting lists “statistically meaningless.
“People get on them when they are pregnant, they join more than one list and stay on for years, so they don’t tell us much about the real demand,” she said.
The ministry’s own data sets the vacancy rate in B.C. child-care facilities at about 30 per cent, she notes in a recent report. Infant and toddler care in urban areas and small family child cares tend to have the lowest vacancy rates.
Ward is concerned the provincial government may be investing in large, centre-based facilities that parents don’t want to use.
“Since 2003, the highest vacancy rates exist in centre-based group facilities with 40 or more spaces,” she wrote with co-author Andrea Mrozek. “The lowest vacancy rates in daycare centres exist in those with 10 or fewer spaces.”