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Opinion: North Shore MLA shares updates on small business, housing, and childcare

Karin Kirkpatrick represents the Riding of West Vancouver-Capilano in the BC Legislature

Elected in 2020, Karin Kirkpatrick (BC United) serves her community as MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano in the BC Legislature and as the Shadow Minister for Housing, Childcare, Autism & Accessibility, Gender Equity & Inclusion. Karin also sits on the Select Standing Committee for Children and Youth.

Regarding some of the immediate priorities that reflect her North Shore constituents, she has been focusing on various issues, including small business, housing, and childcare.

"I feel that my background in running a business and also in social services is giving me some real insight to solutions that we can look at to enhance and make our life on the North Shore even better," says Kirkpatrick.

Small business

"I absolutely believe employees need sick days and should be supported, and to make this possible, government needs to understand the costs and increasing burdens on our small businesses,” Kirkpatrick states.

“New taxes, red tape, and other significant stressors have recently fallen on B.C.’s businesses - all on top of a pandemic. North Shore businesses are being hammered just when they need the most support."

Kirkpatrick continues that she supports the fact that wages need to increase. However, the issue lies in placing this burden on businesses. Government could be offsetting these increased costs with other subsidies or tax incentives.

"We're going to end up putting people out of business,” she says. “We are really hurting our North Shore communities because we're losing those small businesses that can’t afford to continue to operate. The entire community suffers when vital businesses are forced to close their doors."

Housing challenge

From affordable housing to density, there's no shortage of topics with housing concerns on the North Shore.

The B.C. government released the Homes for People plan in April 2023, but the pace for resolving supply and demand has been moving too slowly, according to Kirkpatrick.

"Lack of supply plays a big role in driving prices up, and although the government is pushing the municipalities to increase density, they've got to play a bigger role in supporting that,” she describes, stating that there is a dire need for increased density and increased types of housing, not just affordable housing, but all kinds on the North Shore.

"We must look at the whole continuum of housing. If there's no market housing, we're never going to move people up the continuum to make room for other people needing affordable housing," explains Kirkpatrick. 

"We have to give people a place to move from, and then on to the next level of housing, or for people to downsize. All housing is important to reduce this crisis.”

Childcare crisis

Regarding the province's Childcare Fee Reduction Initiative Program ($10-a-day care), while the fee might be attractive, available childcare spots are well below demand.

"Currently, there are 12,500 $10 spaces in B.C. out of 135,000 spaces, and there's a real inequity on how these $10 spaces have been rolled out," says Kirkpatrick.  

She also feels the fee reduction is coming at the expense of the childcare provider.

"Government talks about how many spaces are opening. They're not saying these are net new spaces because these childcare centres are closing; they can't get staff. They're giving up and saying, 'This isn't a business I can afford to be in anymore,'” she says. 

"Many parents are not getting those spaces, so it doesn't matter how cheap they are if the space doesn't exist."

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