There is a massive affordability crisis for BC families that need child care. Fees can run upwards of $10,000 per year—higher than university tuition—and regulated spaces are available for only 27 per cent of BC children under age five. There’s no question that the status quo—a fragmented patchwork of child care programs with exorbitant prices, inadequate spaces and inconsistent quality—fails to meet the needs of BC families.
Unfortunately, the BC Budget has little to offer parents of young children. The Budget provides additional funding to fund another 2,000 child care spaces on top of the 13,000 spaces over 6 years announced in 2013 with the Early Years Strategy. While any increase is an improvement, 2,000 additional new spaces will not come close to meeting the needs of BC families.
Even if all new spaces opened are for children newborn to age five, the 2,000 new spaces would accommodate less than half a per cent of the children in that age group (fewer, if the number of children in BC grows). Under the government’s current Early Years Strategy, with today’s small improvement, BC would have regulated spaces for fewer than one-third of all children younger than five, far short of where Quebec is now, and there are no plans to make these spaces affordable.
The maximum subsidy for children from newborn to five years has been frozen since 2005. Income thresholds below which parents qualify for subsidies have not increased since 2005 either. Yet child care fees have increased two to three times faster than general inflation for the past decade. Families are left with thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket costs even if they receive the maximum subsidy.
It is disappointing to see the BC government continues to ignore the large body of international and Canadian evidence demonstrates that affordable, high-quality child care and early education programs yield large social and economic benefits. We remain laggards by international standards, investing far less than what is required to ensure that all children can thrive. Small enhancements to the status quo like the 2,000 spaces announced today are not cutting it. We need a shift in priorities.
BC Budget 2017 was the perfect opportunity to provide the investment needed to establish the widely endorsed $10-a-Day Child Care Plan. Such investment would have had ripple effects across the provincial economy: taking some pressure off young working families, freeing resources to pay off their student and mortgage debt; providing a good start for all BC children; allowing more mothers to participate in the workforce, increasing tax revenues almost immediately; and creating new jobs. What a wasted opportunity.
- See more at: http://www.policynote.ca/bcbudget2017/#sthash.JEHXIhqx.dpuf