Newly announced provincial funding to child care does nothing to make it more affordable and is merely a "misguided" attempt by the B.C. Liberal Party to reaffirm its families-first agenda on the eve of an election campaign, child care advocates say.
Premier Christy Clark outlined the details of the B.C Early Years Strategy on Wednesday at the Dorothy Lam Children's Centre in Vancouver. It is one of only a handful of spending initiatives in the three-year fiscal plan released on Tuesday.
The government pledged to increase spending on early-years services by $76-million in the first three years of an eight-year commitment. Funds will go towards 2,000 new child care spaces, an office to co-ordinate services and programs, and a network of early-years centres. Families earning less than $100,000 annually will also qualify for a $55 monthly tax credit per child under six beginning on April 1, 2015.
"I think she [Ms. Clark] should be honest – this is her election platform," said Sharon Gregson, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. "This is not a strategy and it's not a plan. It is little more than making some promises to throw money at bunch of areas of child care. There's nothing comprehensive about building a system here."
Ms. Gregson's strongest criticism of the government's proposal is that it does little to address affordability – she said there is no guarantee new child care spaces will be affordable.
"The $55 a month that they're promising to start two years from now can pay for one day of child care in East Vancouver today, never mind two years from now," Ms. Gregson said. "On paper, this plan might look like the government is doing something, but there is nothing in here that is supporting working families or young people today."
Ms. Clark, on the other hand, said the plan will help "in a very real way," adding that the province's economy depends on supporting families through various measures, including child care.
"That isn't revolutionary thinking by any means, but we often need to remind ourselves again and again of that necessity," Ms. Clark said.
Child care advocates have long argued for a $10-a-day approach, but Ms. Clark said such a program "simply isn't affordable."
She said the government's new plan addresses issues of access, quality and affordability in the system.