British Columbia

'Heading in the right direction': Advocates optimistic B.C.'s high childcare costs will decline

A new report released on Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that Vancouver's childcare fees are up to eight times more expensive than in other parts of the country.
An 18-month pilot is offering about 2,500 child care spots for $200 per month or $10 a day, a dramatic reduction from what parents were previously paying. This is one of several programs to reduce childcare costs in B.C. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Metro Vancouver has some of the highest childcare fees in Canada but those in the province pushing for affordable daycare are optimistic things are changing.

A new report released on Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found that Vancouver's childcare fees are up to eight times more expensive than in other parts of the country like Quebec City — and only behind Toronto in terms of cost.

Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist and public interest researcher with the CCPA in B.C., said the results of the annual study are not surprising because childcare costs reflect provincial policies.

"We've found, over five years of running the surveys, that provinces where childcare is largely left to the market have very, very high fees for parents," Ivanova told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"Places where provinces invest public dollars in reducing fees and affordability for families see a very different story."

(Neil Joyes/CBC)

New programs to reduce fees

The B.C. government has recently started investing more money into childcare with three new fee-reduction programs.

A $10-a-day prototype program is currently underway at 53 sites across the province.

Last year, fees were reduced across the board at licensed childcare centres by up to $350 a month and an income-tested subsidy was introduced for families that earn less than $111,000 a year.

"This is the first time ever that the government is investing in lowering parents fees," said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care.

"It's already bringing affordable relief and lowering fees for tens of thousands of families."

Those initiatives are not reflected in the CCPA report because the study was conducted in May and August, before the programs were rolled out.

Chen said she's optimistic about the direction B.C. is heading.  

"A lot of families are paying less than $200 a month now," Chen said.  

"I'm actually very positive and I look forward to looking at [CCPA's] data and sharing our data with everybody to see how our programs are making a difference."

There are about 600,000 children under the age of 12 in B.C. Not all attend childcare but, for many in the province, the hope is childcare spaces will one day be universally affordable and available. (Mike Dotta/Shutterstock)

'Not going to happen overnight'

Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson with Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., is quick to praise the steps the province has taken toward improving affordability.

But, she says, a lot of work is still needed.

"This is Year 1 of a 10-year-plan," she said.

"It was a big shift to turn around the complete chaos and so it's certainly not going to happen overnight. But we're most definitely heading in the right direction."

Gregson said she hopes childcare will one day follow a similar plan as schooling in B.C.: free and universally available.  

"For the cynics out there who think this is just too big a project: it's not," she said.

"It's underway and it's happening."

With files from The Early Edition


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