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B.C. premier pressed on $10-a-day child care promise

A child-care worker in Vancouver reads to children in this file photo from 2019, when the provincial government announced a partnership with the City of Vancouver that would bring thousands of new licensed child-care spaces to parents across the city. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)
A child-care worker in Vancouver reads to children in this file photo from 2019, when the provincial government announced a partnership with the City of Vancouver that would bring thousands of new licensed child-care spaces to parents across the city. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)

B.C.'s premier says the average cost per day for parents paying for child care has plummeted from what it was when his party took power in the provincial legislature in 2017, but still not what his party promised over two elections: $10 per day for any family that needs it.

The average cost of child care has dropped from around $50 per day to an average of $18 per day, according to David Eby.

"Our goal around child care is very straightforward," he said Monday in Victoria from a roundtable with community members over his government's latest budget.

"Every parent should have access to affordable accessible child care ... we have committed to British Columbians to continue to drive down those costs," he said.

B.C. Premier David Eby listens to Anna Phelan, a Victoria parent who has $10 per day childcare, at a budget roundtable event on March 4, 2024, while Debbie Banjaree, executive director of Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, listens.
B.C. Premier David Eby listens to Anna Phelan, a Victoria parent who has $10 per day childcare, at a budget roundtable event on March 4, 2024, while Debbie Banjaree, executive director of Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, listens.

B.C. Premier David Eby listens to Anna Phelan, a Victoria parent who has $10-per-day child care, at a budget roundtable event on March 4, 2024, while Debbie Banjaree, executive director of Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, listens. (Mike McArthur/CBC News)

Eby was pressed over whether the driving down of those costs would get to a promise his government said was in reach in 2017 — not an average cost for child care, but a universal one at $10 per day.

"We said over a 10-year period we are going to build out an accessible affordable child care program and our target and goal is $10 per day for British Columbians," he said.

The priority to talk about a universal plan with average costs, while eschewing the promised flat rate, illustrates the difficulty the B.C. NDP has had in delivering on one of its key platform planks, opposition politicians and advocates say.

"It is an unmet promise," said B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau. "I think families in B.C. anticipated and expected to have $10-per-day daycare."

"We all have constituents that are desperate for child care, affordable child care," said B.C. United finance critic, MLA Peter Milobar.

"On top of it our provincial government has made such a mess of the system that they can't even put money out the door to families that desperately need it."

Milobar is referring to B.C. having to ask Ottawa last month to be allowed to roll forward federal allocations of child-care funding to future years "due to diverse implementation challenges."

Sharon Gregson became an advocate for affordable childcare in B.C. when she was a single-mother of two boys in the mid-1980s.
Sharon Gregson became an advocate for affordable childcare in B.C. when she was a single-mother of two boys in the mid-1980s.

Sharon Gregson became an advocate for affordable child care in B.C. when she was a single mother of two boys in the mid-1980s. (Chad Pawson/CBC News)

Sharon Gregson, a long-time advocate for $10-per-day child care, said it's a troubling sign that the provincial program is not keeping pace with the money available to grow it.

She said for the current fiscal plan, federal contributions to child care in B.C. is around $1 billion to the province's $800 million.

"So the investment has grown astronomically but all the funding isn't being spent," she said. "It's being carried over from the federal government at a time when there is such dire need."

The province says since 2018, it has invested $3.9 billion in its 10-year ChildCareBC plan.

Gregson says there is relatively minor growth forecast in B.C.'s own spending over the next two years, which could also hamper the province from meeting a goal of having a wage grid to help with the recruitment and retention of child-care workers needed to operate new child-care spots.

"We need to invest in the workforce, which Premier Eby has pointed to the challenges of," she said.

Currently there are 140,000 licensed child-care spots in B.C., according to Gregson, with 14,000 of them, or 10 per cent, operating at $10 per day.

"This isn't going to happen overnight," Eby said about adding spots.

"This is building the first new major social program in a generation in British Columbia … we've got more to do."

He also called on Ottawa this week to continue being a "strong" partner to help continue to build B.C.'s affordable child-care program.