British Columbia

Child-care providers concerned fee reduction initiative could handcuff businesses

The provincial government has promised cheaper child care for British Columbia parents by April 1, but the people who provide that care say there are major problems with the government's plan.

B.C. Child Care Owners Association says it needs more time and information

Three preschool kids play with colourful blocks.
Licensed providers can opt in to a program to receive funding in order to reduce fees for parents. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The provincial government has promised cheaper child care for British Columbia parents by April 1, but the people who provide the care say there are major problems with the government's plan. 

Under the new Child Care Operating Funding initiative, licensed providers can register to receive funding to reduce fees for parents.   

The reductions range from $350 per month for group infant or toddler care to $60 per month for family care of children aged three to five.

Amanda Worms, a representative with the B.C. Child Care Owners Association, says daycare providers are scrambling to meet the upcoming deadline to opt into the program.

"The lack of information in general over the last couple of weeks has been rather disheartening and makes you kind of feel like they are flying by the seat of their pants in trying to pull this all together," Worms said.

Daycare owners have received conflicting details from information sessions and the contracts they were given, Worms told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"We really just want more clarity," she said. "We received another fact sheet last night ... the numbers didn't make sense at all. It showed us basically taking a loss to give this fee reduction."

Fears of financial hit

Providers can choose whether or not to opt into the program. If they do, they cannot raise their fees for the rest of the year except in special circumstances. 

Some child-care providers are concerned this means they will take a financial hit, if they cannot control their rates or come up against increased costs, like the new MSP payroll tax rolling out next year.  

"A lot of people that were previously going to opt in decided that this doesn't make any sense anymore," Worms said. 

Katrina Chen, the minister of state for child care, said the ministry will work with daycares on a case-by-case basis if they need to raise their fees for unexpected circumstances like a rent increase. 

"I understand that with changes there may come questions, and we are really happy to work with [providers]," she said.

"We have been in communication with providers and educators since our budget came out in February, and and we are continuing to do that."

Five provincial information sessions for providers have been held in the past week and the program's call centre hours have also been extended to answer questions. 

Providers can choose to opt in to the fee reduction at any time, but those intending to reduce fees by April 1 need to apply by March 27. 

​"We really just need a little bit more time to do our due diligence and make sure that by opting into this program, we are not handcuffing our businesses," Worms said. 

With files from The Early Edition.