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REPORTING · 1st December 2014
Walter McFarlane
On November 17th, Kitimat City Council received a presentation from Sharon Gregson, who is a part of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC on the topic of quality affordable Childcare at $10 a day.

“I am going to present to you a very high level PowerPoint on a rather complex piece of public policy around supporting families with young children and those children have access to high quality early childhood education. Right now, you might know there is very little quality licensed child care available across our province. Only 20% of children have access to regulated care,” said Gregson.

She explained to Council the people who provide the childcare are not very well paid and families have to patch together the services to meet their family’s needs if they work non-traditional hours.

“In British Columbia, we have two conflicting realities. We have a growing understanding on the importance of early learning and high quality early childhood experience for young children. We’ve seen the expansion of Kindergarten to a full day service for five year olds in our public schools and more elementary schools than ever now have strong start programs for caregivers, parents and children to drop into,” said Gregson.

She stated the Province has also instituted the early development indicator index which measures the vulnerability of children when they show up for Kindergarten on five categories, physical, emotional, cognitive, language and how they are doing.

“That level of vulnerability is growing worse across our province. We’re now at 32%, five year olds showing up at Kindergarten not being ready to be as successful in school as they could be,” said Gregson.

She added Kitimat was above the provincial average with 37% of the students measuring as vulnerable in one or more of the developments which she listed.

In addition to an early learning crisis, she told Council there is also a daycare crisis. There are high fees for parents which vary across the country, $1,800 a month in Vancouver and about $1000 a month for infant and toddler care in small communities. There are low wages for college trained childhood educators and few quality spaces. Finally, this is a provincial responsibility which would need funding form the Federal Government.

“Our plan is to cap parent fees at $10 a day, $7 a day for part time care and no user fee for the families which make less than $40,000 a year. The same way we think about elementary school. We don’t charge high fees for parents to access grade two or grade 5 or grade 11. It’s a part of our public system and I think we need to start investing in the early years along those same ways,” said Gregson.

She stated there were a number of things which would have to take place for the project to begin. It would require new legislation and would require early child care to move from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Child Protection and into the Ministry of Education, which BC is the last province to make the latter move.

She added if families were able to access affordable child care, there would be more women who could participate in the workforce. They could pay income taxes and buy local. There would be more money for early childhood educators to be paid. Businesses and families would be able to save money.

There are 32 regional and municipal governments in support of this plan in addition to a number of other people. She asked Council for their support.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know what the cost of the plan would be. Gregson stated 88 million dollars to reduce the cost to $10 a day. The money would have to come from the Province to build the spaces which are needed and train the educators. However, the experience in Quebec at $7 a day was the Government was able to recoup the cost after 12 years, allowing the program to pay for itself out of the income tax which was coming from working mothers.

Councillor Rob Goffinet made a motion to support the project and urge the government to commit to the plans vision and work with communities like Kitimat. Goffinet expressed the motion would endorse the vision of a system of integrated child care and learning.

“We’ve had people in our community discuss over the last couple of years as to how early childhood education is being enforced and is being sighted in our District of Kitimat Schools already. This is, in principal, early childhood education,” said Goffinet.

He said the $10 a day would accommodate children and be the basis for self-funding. It will be a user fee for people who cannot afford regular child care and it will support itself. He added this is done in other countries.

“I think Kitimat is going to be well served if this is instituted in the future and I will support it,” said Goffinet. The motion was called and carried.
Comment by Tim Rice on 10th December 2014
Quebec has just announced their $7.00 a day childcare is not sustainable. $10 a day seems unrealistically low. Childcare in BC average cost $1200 a month, they want tax payer funded $10.00 a day, $200 a month Childcare, difference of $1000 a month per child in BC to be payed for by us Tax payers. That's never going to happen, it would bankrupt BC.
Child Care
Comment by Leon Dumstrey-SooS on 3rd December 2014
Child care starts from Community building with families, which in past five years was totaly absent,
as Council and Administration in my opinion cared for tax base only!

All the proposed and speculated growth so far has failed as previous Council did not encourage investors to bring in certain number of Families here.

Right now we have five members from the old Council and on the election forum the only one that
brought to light the importance and needs of families in Community is present Mayor Germuth.

As no school reopened in past five years for lack of children, why are some of old members of Council playing politics initiated by Federal NDP, rather than seriously concentrating on rebuilding the human factor and social fabric in Kitimat.