Third in a series of Black Press B.C. election coverage leading up to May 9
Competing child care visions dominated the early days of the B.C. election campaign, with costly promises from the B.C. NDP and Green Party proposed to fix a status quo of rising costs and waiting lists that continue despite new additions from the B.C. Liberal government.
NDP leader John Horgan has been promoting $10-a-day universal daycare for months. But when it came time to release his costed election platform, he opted to avoid deficit spending and set a 10-year goal for the heavily subsidized program.
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During their first debate, B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark quipped that most of today’s youth would have drivers’ licences by the time the program was up and running.
The B.C. Liberals have also highlighted the struggles of Quebec’s universal child care program, which has long waiting lists and majority usage by higher-income families.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver stuck with his ambitious promise to provide no-charge daycare for children of working parents up to age two, and no-charge pre-school for kids age three to four, when kindergarten begins. Weaver’s platform costing puts the additional expenditures for “lifelong learning” at more than $2 billion in the first full year, rising to nearly $3 billion by the third year.
The B.C. Liberals began expanding kindergarten for five-year-olds from half days to full days in 2010, after delaying it due to growing deficits in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis.
The province currently covers about 15 per cent of licensed daycare operating costs through subsidies, and also assists qualified low-income parents.
The B.C. Liberal record includes spending $11.3 million in the past year for the third phase of its expansion of child care spaces. That phase amounts to 1,800 more spaces in 30 communities.
New projects in the Lower Mainland include six sites in Surrey, two each in Abbotsford, Langley and Coquitlam and one each in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Burnaby, Delta and Squamish.
On Vancouver Island, funding goes to three projects in Duncan and one each in Nanaimo, Victoria, Comox, Port Hardy and Tofino.
In the B.C. Interior, three projects were approved for Kelowna, two in Penticton, and one each in Naramata, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Enderby, Princeton, Houston, Kamloops, Merritt, Vanderhoof and Dawson Creek.