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B.C. child care advocates hopeful $10-a-day slogan will become reality

VICTORIA — B.C. child care advocates say they’re confident the NDP government is still pursuing its election promise of $10-a-day child care, even as the province dropped the slogan from its throne speech Tuesday.

Premier John Horgan said it’s still his goal to honour what he campaigned on in May 2017, namely to reach $10-a-day full-time child care, $7-a-day part-time, and free child care for low-income families, to be phased in over 10 years. However, his government’s throne speech made no mention of the targets or the $10-a-day slogan that was so prevalent throughout his election campaign.

“That’s our commitment, that’s what we’re going to drive toward,” Horgan told reporters Tuesday.

“But it’s also important you remember that the $10-a-day label to drive the child care plan was put together not by the NDP but by child care providers, academics and providers. We’ve embraced it and are going to implement it.”

Horgan said the plan, that will be unveiled in full in the Feb. 20 provi..

VICTORIA — B.C. child care advocates say they’re confident the NDP government is still pursuing its election promise of $10-a-day child care, even as the province dropped the slogan from its throne speech Tuesday.

Premier John Horgan said it’s still his goal to honour what he campaigned on in May 2017, namely to reach $10-a-day full-time child care, $7-a-day part-time, and free child care for low-income families, to be phased in over 10 years. However, his government’s throne speech made no mention of the targets or the $10-a-day slogan that was so prevalent throughout his election campaign.

“That’s our commitment, that’s what we’re going to drive toward,” Horgan told reporters Tuesday.

“But it’s also important you remember that the $10-a-day label to drive the child care plan was put together not by the NDP but by child care providers, academics and providers. We’ve embraced it and are going to implement it.”

Horgan said the plan, that will be unveiled in full in the Feb. 20 provincial budget, has always been that “the first three years are the ramp-up period, where we’re looking at toddler and infant care, we’re creating more spaces, we’re training more people. And those elements will be in the budget.”

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The $10-a-day title may have been dropped due to a disagreement with the B.C. Greens, who are in a power-sharing deal with the NDP and oppose what they call the unnecessary “slogan.” Green leader Andrew Weaver said Tuesday the NDP should simply be working on providing the best universal child care plan it can, without the label.

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Horgan’s throne speech Tuesday promised “the largest investment in child care in B.C. history” but with few details, costs or timelines.

Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson accused the NDP of abandoning its election promises on child care and housing.

“This is a government that doesn’t have the stomach to govern because they made promises they cannot deliver on,” he said. “The throne speech is so completely lacking in substance that we are now concerned they are saving the rude surprises for the budget, where they are likely to raise taxes.”

An agreement B.C. signed with Ottawa late last week for $153-million in federal child care funding over three years did offer more clues, including B.C.’s plan for a $1-million grant program for non-profit organizations, municipalities, universities, hospitals, colleges or schools to create new child care spaces, as well as a boost in operational funds that would drive down costs in 2018 for child care spaces for children up to the age of three.

Advocates of the $10-a-day child care plan welcomed the government’s commitments, regardless of the name.

“There’s a lot of new energy and new commitment coming to child care,” said Sharon Gregson of the $10-a-day child care campaign. “It’s never happened like this before. Talking about turning a corner — this is unprecedented provincial and federal commitment.”

Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon arrives at the Legislative Assembly to deliver the speech from the throne in the legislative assembly in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

Gregson praised the government’s promise to introduce new legislation to give parents information on problem providers, a move likely propelled by the tragic death of 16-month-old Macallan Saini, known as Baby Mac, at an unlicensed Vancouver daycare last year.

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She also endorsed the throne speech promise to convert unlicensed child care spaces to licensed ones, saying it would lead to better quality options for B.C. parents, and ensure health and safety standards and proper monitoring and oversight are in place.

Iglika Ivanova of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said she was “very optimistic” about the direction the government was taking.

“What is in the throne speech is encouraging,” said Ivanova, who authored a report on how the province can implement the $10-a-day plan either as a federal-provincial partnership or as a B.C.-only program.

But Ivanova also said it’s difficult to know yet if the government is actually on track to fulfil the $10-a-day promise. “It’s hard to tell,” she said. “It’s impossible to assess without seeing more details. It looks like the key elements are here.”

She said the $10-a-day plan is much more than just a commitment to reduce fees. “It is actually the shorthand for a system of integrated early child care and learning,” she said. “The whole idea is to build quality and affordability and increase spaces.”

Gregson would like to see details on wage enhancements for early childhood educators, fee reductions and fee caps on child care spaces, and target numbers for new spaces.

Ivanova said she hopes the government will announce a timetable for the plan’s rollout, and offer bursaries for child care providers at unlicensed centres so they can get the training and credentials they need to transition to providing licensed child care. She believes the plan can be phased in over eight to 10 years.

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She also hopes to see meaningful funding commitments from the government, along the lines of $250 million in the first year and a target of 22,500 new child care spaces over three years.

Premier John Horgan answers questions from the media following the speech from the throne.

Tuesday’s throne speech also promised “the largest investment in affordable housing in B.C.’s history, including social housing, student housing, seniors housing, Indigenous housing and affordable rentals for middle-income families,” read the speech.

Renters, too, will get more protection with new legislation, said the government.

The NDP government will introduce “legislation to crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market,” read the speech.

Horgan said the moves won’t impact people who pay taxes in B.C. but are also looking to cash in the gains made from the hot housing market.

Green leader Weaver expressed “cautious optimism” at the speech.

The government resurrected its election pledge to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge within five years, due to safety concerns. Horgan said it’s “full speed ahead” on the 10-year transit plan expansion proposed by Metro Vancouver’s mayors.

The speech also promised 2,900 new technology-related spaces at colleges and universities, a cross-ministry framework to meet the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, improvements to reduce health care surgical waiting times, a long-promised poverty reduction strategy, a new playground capital fund and a review to “revitalize B.C.’s environment assessment process.”

rshaw@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun

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