The Quebec dream of universal subsidized state daycare is coming to B.C., but slowly.
Premier John Horgan signalled the priority he places on $10-a-day child care by personally making an announcement last week that an additional 300 training spaces are being added to the province’s post-secondary school system. The $2.7 million over three years will double the number of training spaces across the province to 800.
(In politics, funding commitments are announced over and over, first as a global budget figure, then annual or regional amounts, unless the priority quietly changes or taxpayers’ money runs low. This provides a steady diet of “Gainsburgers” to feed the news media, as U.S. political strategists used to say.)
The slogan of $10-a-day child care was embraced by Horgan’s NDP in the 2017 election, then dropped as pilot projects indicated some people get it for less, or even free. Now the slogan is back for some reason, as segments of B.C.’s $1 billion commitment to build, staff and subsidize new daycare spaces roll out.
Funding additional early childhood educator training is one thing; getting students to fill the seats is another. The B.C. government is pushing to graduate more care aides for seniors homes as well, and competing for the same pool of potential employees.
When the $1 billion child care budget came out in February 2018, UBC economics professor Mariana Adshade questioned whether it is practical.
“In this current economy, where unemployment is at record lows, we’re going to find 6,000 daycare workers?” Adshade said. “It has none of the benefits of being a teacher. It pays essentially minimum wage. You work 12 months of the year. I do not know where they think these workers are coming from.”
The NDP government wants to increase wages too, and not just the minimum wage. A daycare operator told the Saanich News last year that she couldn’t open a new location because offering $19 to $21 an hour plus benefits wasn’t enough.
Since we’re approaching a federal election, I’ll suggest that immigration is one place B.C. will get new workers for these fields. That’s certainly the history of filling lower-paid jobs.
The federal election may also continue a philosophical discussion of the role of the state vs. the family. Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has described the NDP’s vision as “Big Daycare,” where early childhood educators run state daycares so parents can go to work at other jobs.
This isn’t how child-rearing takes place for the majority of parents. For many, it’s informal, involving extended family members, or even “illegal” as people take in daycare children without licensing and inspection.
The NDP’s nanny state vision is similar to its concept of health care, where huge public resources are being directed at making sure no one pays for their medically necessary procedures. An epic battle against private clinics drags on in B.C. courts, as the resources of federal and provincial governments are poured into delaying tactics to outlast or outlive Cambie Surgery Centre founder Dr. Brian Day, in a case the governments fear they will eventually lose.
Quebec’s daycare is criticized for being affordable only because Ottawa send billions to Quebec in transfer payments, and for helping mainly professionals who have the resources to be first in line.
Here in B.C., NDP politicians are outraged by suggestions one parent might opt to stay home.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org