Victoria: You shouldn’t have to win the lottery to raise a child in British Columbia. But every year, quality, accessible child care gets closer to becoming an option for only the rich and the lucky.
Christy Clark thinks that’s acceptable. I disagree. That’s why this week I announced that a New Democrat government will invest in affordable, universal child care and work towards a $10-a-day child care program. For years, parents in this province have struggled to find quality child care that they can afford, and called for change from Christy Clark. Instead, the premier stood by while child care became exclusive, expensive and inaccessible.
Today, we’re facing a child care crisis. Christy Clark just wants to look the other way. I don’t. I know we need to do the right thing and act today – for our kids, for our families, and for our economy.
If you’re a parent in this province, chances are you’re already struggling with the affordability crisis that’s devastating family budgets, and forcing families out of regions like Metro Vancouver.
And if you’re a parent with a child in child care, chances are you pay more for that one bill than for any other expense, with the exception of housing costs.
Under Christy Clark, the cost of child care has risen at unsustainable rates – and today, it’s a cost that many families can’t even contemplate. In Metro Vancouver, costs regularly reach more than $1,200 per child, per month.
Those who can afford to take the financial hit face yet another challenge: waitlists. There are regulated child care spaces available for only 20 per cent of children in this province, with many more families hoping to find one.
The results: children are starting kindergarten before their name finally comes up on a child care waitlist. Panicked parents are rushing to add their children to waitlists months before their birth in hopes of securing a spot. Families faced with an uncertain future are choosing to give up and leave B.C. altogether.
For many families, losing the waitlist lottery means that one parent is forced to step away from his or her career.
In our province, mothers’ participation rates are the second lowest in Canada, and 40 per cent of B.C. families report that a parent couldn’t return to work following the end of parental leave because they couldn’t find child care.
That’s why business leaders in this province have made it clear that they, too, rely on accessible child care – it enables them to attract the young people and skilled workers that drive our economy.
Despite this broad support for a provincial child care plan, some people will question whether government can afford it – but the reality is that over the long run it will pay for itself. Not only will it allow more parents to get into the work force, go to school, and earn more money, but it will help children succeed subsequently in school and prepare for life. That boosts the economy as well as provincial and federal tax revenue.
Let’s face it: being a parent is hard enough – and as if the sleepless nights, the chaotic schedules and the never-ending laundry wasn’t enough, Christy Clark has made it even harder.
Her government has hiked every hidden tax they could, from medical premiums to hydro rates to education costs, eroding family budgets across the province. At the same time, they stood by, denying, distracting and delaying while our housing markets spiraled out of control, and everyone from families looking for their first house to students trying to find a rental apartment are feeling the impact.
Instead, in her most recent budget, the premier gave the top two per cent of income earners a tax break they didn’t even ask for.
Governing is about choices. Again and again, Christy Clark and her government have chosen their friends and allies over regular families in this province.
It’s not too late to make child care in British Columbia accessible and affordable. But we need to act now. Every day that goes by is a day that’s lost for working families.