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There's strong support to expand $10-a-day child care in B.C., poll shows

43% of parents with young children said they had to wait more than six months to get a spot; 88 per cent said they still want access to $10-a-day child care.
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B.C.'s $10-a-day child care program only applies to nine per cent of licensed facilities in the province.

A strong majority of British Columbians support the government’s $10-a-day child-care program despite it only having been rolled out in nine per cent of licensed facilities. 

In a poll released Monday, 80 per cent of respondents agreed it was important the B.C. government continue with the program. Another three-quarters of those polled said it should be expanded faster and with more flexibility outside standard business hours.

“Families are saying what you’re doing is working, but we need more and we need to move faster,” said Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC.

Gregson says there are currently about 15,000 B.C. children who attend $10-a-day child care. That represents about nine per cent of the 146,000 spaces in a province with about 600,000 children 12 and under. 

The poll, carried out by Research Co. on behalf of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, found 20 per cent of respondents said they were personally touched by the $10-a-day program — either directly or through someone they know. 

With only enough licensed child-care spaces for 23 per cent of children in B.C., 84 per cent of people with young children said long wait lists remain a barrier, according to the poll. 

Gregson said there have been huge improvements in child-care affordability in recent years, with tens of thousands of more spaces created and funded since 2018. 

At the same time, 43 per cent of parents with young children said they had to wait more than six months to get a spot. And 88 per cent said they would still like to have a spot in a $10-a-day child-care facility. 

“The gap was so huge to start with, and they haven’t expanded fast enough through schools and non-profits,” said Gregson. “Most programs have hundreds of children on the waiting list.” 

“It’s very typical for families to get put on a waiting list and not get access when they need it.”

B.C. ministry cites progress, cautions against comparisons

Gregson acknowledged creating a child-care system from scratch is a “huge undertaking” but that several other jurisdictions in Canada — including Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Manitoba, P.E.I., Nunavut and Saskatchewan — have already moved their entire system to the $10-a-day program.

Those experiences suggest that a good child-care system requires more investment in good quality facilities and the training of a qualified and well-compensated workforce, Gregson said. 

“There needs to be a plan on how it’s going to be expanded [and] how it’s accountable. People don’t want any more money wasted,” she said. 

According to the B.C. government, the number of early childhood educators in the province has increased to 14,400 from 10,400 in 2018. Of those, about 13,000 receive a $6-an-hour wage enhancement. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Child Care said it has helped open 18,000 child-care spaces since 2018, but that building more spaces “does take time.” The spokesperson said “caution is recommended” when comparing child-care delivery across provinces and territories. 

“Each province has a unique child-care landscape, and has a different agreement with the federal government on how to achieve their individual child-care goals,” said the spokesperson in an email unattributed to any person at the ministry.

Will child care be a top election issue?

A majority of the poll’s respondents also backed several policy recommendations put forward in the survey, such as ensuring child-care facilities pay fair wages and providing access to before and after school programs. 

A further 78 per cent of older British Columbians backed calls to help parents who work non-traditional schedules, and 76 per cent said all new child-care facilities in B.C. should be built to be climate-resilient.

Gregson noted that in 2017 and 2020, child care was among the top three issues voters cared about. She said the latest poll confirms B.C. residents still consider it a top issue.

“We need to meet the needs of children and parents, because ultimately, that meets the needs of the economy,” said Gregson. “I think politicians would be making a mistake if they don’t think child care is still top of mind.”

“The job is not done yet.”