The Burnaby Board of Trade is working with the Surrey Board of Trade on a position paper that could change the way businesses - and different levels of government - treat families.
The two boards recently co-hosted the Business and Families First Dialogue in Surrey.
"It was the first step for us getting involved with Surrey on this issue," Paul Holden, president and CEO of the Burnaby board said last week.
Businesses, such as Ritchie Bros. of Burnaby, made presentations, and the audience worked in groups to present ideas on how businesses could help families strike a work/life balance, Holden said.
The Burnaby board became involved through Susan Papadionissiou, who is on Burnaby's social development committee and is the coordinator for The Children's Partnership for Surrey/White Rock, and is also a member of the Surrey board.
Papadionissiou wrote the Surrey board's Business and Families Position Paper, which was presented to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce last year.
The Burnaby board, meanwhile, has been surveying its member businesses about work/life balance, according to Holden, and developing its first family-friendly business award, which was given to Pacific Blue Cross.
"They have a really wide ranging suite of employee practices there that can help their employees achieve a better balance," he said.
Burnaby isn't just focusing on the child-care aspect, he added, but is considering families who also need elder care for family members.
"I think it's important that we don't - sometimes this issue focuses on affordable childcare - but it's more than that, what our survey looked at," Holden said,
Both boards have been consulting with Paul Kershaw from UBC's Human Early Learning Partnership.
"By working with Surrey, we hope to frame something we can present to our board of directors as a joint paper with Surrey, if possible," Holden said, adding the first paper was not accepted by the Canadian chamber, so the boards will be presenting it again this year.
The Surrey board's position paper from March 2012 recommends three policy changes to create a "New Deal" for families and businesses.
The three changes are: ensuring that parents, including the self-employed, can be home with their newborns until 18 months; that parents are provided with $10 a day child-care services, and free child care for families making less than $40,000; and that companies provide flex-time for parents.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey board, said the board does not plan to change the wording of the paper before presenting it again, though it was not accepted the first time.
"We believe in it that strongly," she said.
It was not accepted the first time because a lot of the larger companies represented at the chamber felt it would increase taxes, she explained.
"We're not asking for an increase in taxes to make this happen," Huberman said. "We're asking for the federal government and the B.C. government to change their philosophy around implementing childcare policies.
"Even if it's not a $10-a-day child-care subsidy, we're asking that they have some kind of child-care policy," she added, pointing out that Canada is the only nation in the developed world that doesn't have a child-care policy.
She is more hopeful it will be accepted this time, she said, because the current chair of the Canadian chamber is Pat Horgan, a vice-president with IBM Canada.
IBM Canada gave Surrey a $50,000 grant to do a smart cities survey, Huberman said, so Horgan is aware of what they discovered regarding Surrey's child-care needs.
A third of the population in Surrey is under 19, according to Huberman, and there are nine licensed childcare spaces for every 100 children in Surrey, in comparison with Vancouver, which has 18 spaces for every 100 children.
"We need to be able to support our children, our youth, because they're the future workers of our businesses," she said.
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