It’s exciting times for child care in the BC election. All three major parties are promising to invest substantially more. The investments being discussed across the board are significant, and can make a real difference to ease the squeeze on families.
While the times are exciting, they are also kind of funny. Because there is an interesting mismatch between the dollars that some of the parties are proposing to invest, and the level of ambition they describe for improving the system.
The BC Liberal party is proposing to invest the most new money in child care – an impressive $1.1 billion/year. When building on the progress made toward $10aday child care under the previous government, that would be enough money to bring the entire vision to reality. No one in the province would need to pay more than $10aday for child care; it could be free for households with incomes less than $40,000; and we could ensure that child care workers get pay equity wages on par with elementary school teachers. All we’d have to do is wait for enough spaces to get built.
Ironically, while the BC Liberals budget the most, they actually promise the least. Page 8 of their platform only promises to bring fees down to $10aday for households below $65,000, and then have fees that reach $30aday more for households with higher incomes. The BC Liberals also make no mention of improving wages paid to child care workers so that we no longer expect them to provide critical care for our kids at prices paid for parking lot attendants.
It’s as if the BC Liberal platform was put together so quickly that they don’t recognize adequately how much their budget promise for child care could actually buy.
In sum, we should absolutely celebrate the BC Liberal promise to invest $1.1 billion more per year ion child care, and hold all other parties to the same bold commitment. But the rest of the BC Liberal platform is relatively weak on child care. Their vision is not as ambitious as their funding commitment. Hopefully the vision will improve.
Green Party of BC
The BC Green party proposes to increase funding for child care by $523 million in annual funding.
Whereas the BC Greens propose only to invest half the money of the BC Liberals, they aim for so much more. Free child care for working parents with children under age 3. And up to 25 hours of free child care a week for children age 3 and 4, which will be integrated into the school system. By this vision, many families might end up paying less than $10aday, and the Greens do promise “professional wages” for early childhood educators to achieve pay equity.
Problem is, the funding that the BC Greens propose is not enough to bring this vision to reality. So they have the opposite problem of the Liberals: a better vision, but insufficient budget – only about 80% of the money needed.
Interestingly, the BC NDP come up the middle. The party would accelerate the implementation of the $10aday vision they adopted in the last election.
The BC NDP would accelerate the implementation by adding another half million dollars next year, and then $750 million the year after. When added the funds it invested in the initial years after its election in 2017, the new promises would bring the BC NDP’s investment to 96% of the price tag required to pay annually for the $10aday vision for child care: no more than $10aday fees, and no fees for households with incomes below $40,000; low ratios of children to child care educators in order to promote high quality care; pay equity wages for child care workers, etc.
While patience will still be required while we build enough spaces to serve all children in the province, no longer would budget shortfalls be a significant problem.
It’s a good election for child care. Go vote.
Hopefully this cross-party commitment to serious child care investments in BC can take root in future elections in other provinces!