The Strathcona Regional District is endorsing a plan that would provide child care for just $10 a day.
The board of directors, at last week’s Thursday meeting, voted to not only support the initiative but to also write to the B.C. ministry of education – with copies to other local governments – to show its endorsement.
Campbell River Director Michele Babchuk, who formerly sat on the School District 72 board that has already endorsed the plan, said she is a huge supporter of the program.
“You would have an ECE (Early Childcare Educator) in classrooms working with kindergarten and Grade 1 students,” Babchuk said. “In talking to any teachers on the ground, there’s a lot of children who just aren’t ready and they need that ECE worker.”
But the most notable aspect of the plan is affordable child care. Under the plan, funding for daycare would fall under the mandate of the provincial ministry of education and would be subsidized by the province, allowing for cheaper rates – $10 a day for full-time care, $7 a day for children attending daycare part-time and free for families with annual incomes below $40,000.
Currently, child care in Campbell River costs on average $987 per month for toddlers and $735 for 3 to 5-year-olds.
The plan would also raise the wages of early childhood educators to $25 an hour.
It’s estimated to cost the province $1.5 billion a year to implement the plan if it were to include all children under the age of six but Dee McPhee, executive director of Quadra’s Children Centre, said that money would come back to the province.
“Research shows that there’s a return to the economy of $2.54 for every dollar spent in early child care and the plan would be implemented over 10 years,” said McPhee, who presented the plan to the regional district with Joyce McMann, family place coordinator.
McMann said it’s a sound investment for the province because the initiative aims to reduce child poverty by allowing more mothers to go back to work which in turn helps create a healthy economy.
“That’s more money in parents’ pockets to spend in the local economy,” said McMann.
Babchuk agreed and said it’s degrading to the economy when a mother is forced to make the choice to leave the work force because she can’t afford child care.
“We need to get those women back in our work force,” she said.
But Sayward Director John MacDonald saw it differently.
“I think it’s sad that society has come to this, where we have to have both parents working,” MacDonald said. “The early education for a child is still one of the parents being home with the child.
“I support you, but I think it’s a shame we have to have parents working so they can live.”
Director Larry Samson, who has been an advocate for early child care, said it’s no longer the norm for mothers to stay home with the children and society needs to adapt.
“It’s a different world we live in now,” Samson said. “We have to do something. We have to start at an early age to bring these children along. If there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Area D Director Gerald Whalley said he agreed that one parent should be home with the children and disagreed with the child care plan.
“I strongly oppose what you’re proposing here,” Whalley said. “All those societal issues are by not having their natural mother home with them in their early years.”
Some of the societal issues McPhee and McMann referenced were: that Campbell River’s child poverty rate is higher than the provincial average at 22.8 per cent and that Campbell River children rate lower for standards of reading and writing compared to their provincial counterparts.
Dr. Charmaine Enns, Island Health’s chief medical officer, has told Campbell River city council in the past that initiatives such as the $10 a day plan help reduce child poverty because more parents are able to be working and earning an income.
In the end it was Area D Director Brenda Leigh who put forward the motion to support the affordable child care plan.
“I totally support the $10 a day program, I think some kids really need it,” Leigh said. “I did whatever I had to do to be home with my children to raise them, but I was very relieved those two afternoons a week when I got to take my kids to the Humpty Dumpty cooperative and have a few hours to go shopping, or go to the library, just to do some of the things that I wanted to do.
“Just the support for me because I was a single parent, and there’s a lot of women in the same boat as I was who don’t have that nuclear family, who don’t have that support that’s needed.
“Something has to give.”