(File photo)

$153M in federal cash to fund child care, education training in B.C.

Bilateral agreement will create 1,370 new infant and toddler spaces

Help is on the way for cash-strapped B.C. parents struggling with expensive daycare fees and long waiting lists, say federal and provincial politicians after signing a bilateral child care agreement Friday.

The federal government’s investment of $153 million was announced in B.C.’s budget this week and is part of the province’s three-year plan to make child care more affordable as it works toward establishing a universal system.

“We all know that child care is expensive and hard to find, and for too long it’s been left to get worse,” said Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s children’s minister, speaking in a Vancouver family centre while toddlers squealed and played.

“That’s left too many parents feeling squeezed because they can’t afford to take time off and they can’t afford the child care.”

The agreement will create 1,370 new infant and toddler spaces, help care providers administer low-cost programs and apply new funding streams to train early childhood educators over three years. It will also expand child care for Indigenous children and kids with special needs.

Jonathan Wilkinson, the member of Parliament for North Vancouver, said the investment is similar to what the federal government has committed to other provinces as part of its $7.5 billion child care investment over the next 11 years. But he noted B.C. has unique challenges.

“Just like in the rest of Canada, raising a child in British Columbia can be very costly, and perhaps here in the Lower Mainland and in many other parts of British Columbia more costly than many other parts of the country,” he said.

The announcement had been scheduled for earlier this month but was abruptly cancelled by the federal government, leading B.C.’s Opposition Liberals to argue that the province’s actions on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion were taking a toll on federal-provincial relations.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley had banned the sale of B.C. wines to Alberta in response to B.C.’s proposal to limit diluted bitumen shipments, but she lifted that ban Thursday after B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his government would ask the courts to decide if it can restrict the shipments.

Both Wilkinson and Conroy said the previous cancellation had nothing to do with the pipeline dispute.

“The issue was simply one of scheduling,” said Wilkinson. “This is a very important issue for the federal government, as it is for the government of B.C.”

The B.C. budget earmarked an additional $1 billion for child care over the next three years. Beginning April 1, funding will be given to licensed care providers to cut $350 a month from the cost of a child care space, while a benefit of up to $1250 a month per child will start being paid to providers in September.

The province’s child care crunch is hard on families and the economy, because businesses are losing out on the skilled workers they need, said Conroy.

“Universal child care will allow parents to return to work secure in the knowledge that their children are being cared for by qualified early childhood educators.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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