B.C. government shouldn’t boast about child-care disaster

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Appeared in the Vancouver Province, February 7, 2024
B.C. government shouldn’t boast about child-care disaster

According to a recent post on the B.C. government’s website, the government push for $10 per-day child care is making life more affordable for British Columbians because “more people can join our growing economy by working.” That’s the claim. But what’s the reality?

Last year, UBC researchers spent six months contacting child-care centres across the province hoping to interview low-income single mothers who could access these $10 per-day spaces—they found only 17 such women. “We were shocked,” said the lead researcher. “It’s a troubling finding.”

In fact, across the province child-care use is down overall and harder to find. According to Statistics Canada, in 2023 the number of children aged 0-5 years in child care in British Columbia was 142,300, down from 152,900 in 2019. And that’s not because there’s lots of open spaces waiting to be filled; among families using child care in B.C., 58.8 per cent reported difficulty finding it in 2023, up from 46.5 per cent in 2019.

These unhappy statistics are corroborated by a report last November by the legislature-appointed Representative for Children and Youth, which stated that “virtually all B.C. families have to work hard to find child care” and “those challenges are exacerbated for families of children with disabilities.” And in December the Early Childhood Educators of BC said there’s a “child care crisis” in the province and the system is “extremely fragile.”

No region seems exempt from the crisis. In Vancouver, last year a senior city planner told city council that “it’s a desert everywhere” and the city is short about 15,000 child-care spaces. Last month, Mayor Sim’s Budget Task Force report described child care, a responsibility downloaded from the province, as an “urgent challenge” and a “crisis.”

In Kamloops, the latest quarterly memo to city council reported the results of the local school district’s survey of parents. Of the 2,374 surveys completed, 94 per cent of families said there was a need for child care in their area and 33 per cent said “they were in need of child care immediately.” A key theme of the survey, the memo said, is that the “lack of appropriate child care is resulting in parents not being able to work.”

In Langley Township, one of the province’s fastest-growing communities, within the last four years the number of children aged two to 12 has risen by 1,000 but the number of child-care spots has fallen by more than 600. Local media reports the community has a “desperate childcare shortage.” Similarly in the Okanagan, a local news article says the state of child care “seems to have reached a crisis point and parents are being put in near-impossible situations,” with the head of a non-profit facility describing a “significant shortage” of spaces.

Finally, a recent CBC News report documented the plight of B.C. parents who are waiting up to three years for a child-care spot and “are unable to work” while a child-care operator in Coquitlam told CBC they had to close waitlists and “have had parents in tears” calling for spaces “but we didn’t want to give the parents false hope, because there is zero chance of them getting in.”

This is government delivery of child care in B.C. Clearly, based on the statistics and the experience of families, it’s nothing for the NDP to boast about. It is, rather, a central planning disaster characterized by widespread shortages, high costs to taxpayers, and little help to those who need it most.

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