It’s a new spin on the nanny state.
Beginning in 2020, council watchers can check their children at the door as the City of North Vancouver embarks on a six-month childcare pilot project following a unanimous vote Monday.
“It’s important to support parents with children who wish to attend council meetings and who may not be able to afford childcare,” said Coun. Angela Girard.
Care for children between 18 months and 12 years of age would be limited to two hours between 5:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Parents would be required to stay in the building while their child is in care.
The proposal was spearheaded by Coun. Jessica McIlroy, who emphasized the need to overcome inequities that hamper citizens’ ability to engage with their local government.
Council chambers are open to children, McIlroy noted. However, council-meeting childcare is a good option for parents who don’t feel comfortable bringing their children into chambers just yet, McIlroy said.
Having listened to many parents discuss the challenges of attending evening meetings, Coun. Tina Hu was enthusiastic about keeping a toy box at city hall.
“Hopefully, we can have more people who are engaged in the city come to our meetings,” she said.
Coun. Tony Valente agreed.
“I think this is going to result in better engagement across our community and, hopefully, a better outcome for a lot of the decisions that we make,” he said.
Parents will be asked to register in advance but the city will be open to drop-ins, space permitting.
For parents who already have a preferred childcare provider, city staff are suggesting a maximum $40 subsidy per meeting dispensed largely on the “honour system.” The city would pay after parents submit an expense form. In order to be eligible for that subsidy, parents would need to produce a copy of their child’s birth certificate during registration. The birth certificate copy would be kept on the city’s files.
The pilot project is estimated to cost $15,300. That budget includes one-time fees including $3,000 for administration and hiring staff, as well as another $3,000 for storage units, child-minding equipment, and a toy box stuffed with toys.
The program could be altered, continued or cancelled after six months.
Due to its two-hour limit, the program is exempt from a Vancouver Coastal Health childcare licence.
The city offers a similar subsidy for members of council advisory committees.
“There is mild uptake on this offer by committee members,” according to city community planner Heather Evans.
Mayor Linda Buchanan did not attend the meeting.