Today is B.C.'s first ever Family Day, and there are family-friendly events planned in many communities, including half-price lift tickets for children at most ski resorts and free rides for children on BC Ferries.

In Vancouver much of the action is taking place in and around the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is hosting family-friendly tours and painting, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Jack.

"There's going to be a range of watercolour activities. That's inspired by Emily Carr. We call that the making place. That's taking place up on our fourth floor," says Jack

"We're also going to have tours of our exhibitions in the gallery, but they're oriented toward children and families."

Outside the gallery, a range of other events is also taking place including a concert by Juno Award winning group Said The Whale, face painting, and a hockey shoot out.

Across the street, the Robson Square Ice rink is also offering free skate rentals. Howe Street will be closed Monday between Robson and Georgia streets to make room for the crowds.

Science World is also hosting creative events, such as making snake-shaped paper lanterns to honour the Chinese New Year.

Skytrain, Seabus and Buses will be running on a Sunday/Holiday Schedule and the West Coast Express not running at all.

Family Day was created by Premier Christy Clark last year, but the date was picked by B.C. residents in an online poll.

"Whether you hit the slopes or take the kids on a hike, this weekend is about spending time together. I hope everyone enjoys the extra day to spend time together with the people important to them."  Clark said in a statement last week. 

The province chose to hold the holiday on the second Monday in February after 31,000 votes were cast in favour over the third Monday in the month.

Tourism Minister Pat Bell said the holiday will provide a significant boost to the province's tourism sector, noting there are many specials deals that will be on during the day, as well as free family-focused special events.

Since Family Day is only a provincial holiday, many federal government employees and those who work in the financial industry will not be getting the day off unless they use up some extra holiday time.

Find events around B.C. - www.BCFamilyDay.ca

Unions organize protests

The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union is using the day for protests, saying families are being squeezed financially and if the B.C. Liberals are truly committed to family values, they would implement a new, affordable daycare system.

The union has collected 3,000 signed postcards from families that will be sent to Victoria asking for publicly-funded care that only costs $10 a day.

"On B.C.'s first Family Day holiday, the government should recognize that young families are financially squeezed," said BCGEU President Darryl Walker in a release.

"Paying for childcare — when it's even available — is like having to pay for housing twice."

Childcare costs an average of $9,000 per year for a two-year-old child in the province, while in Vancouver the cost rises to $14,000, according to the union. There is a shortage of spaces as well, with licensed room for only one in five children in B.C.

Unionized provincial nurses, meanwhile, will be campaigning against changes to pediatric care throughout the Fraser Valley.

B.C. Nurses Union President Debra McPherson and other nurses will be staked out with the union's "campaign bus" at Abbotsford Regional Hospital to rally for greater access to quality care.

The union has been undertaking on-going discussions with local management, the Fraser Health Authority and local politicians about changes to the way pediatric care is delivered for some time now.

With files from The Canadian Press