After Quebec began the implementation of a nearly universal child care system in 1997, many other jurisdictions in Canada have attempted to emulate the policy. Proud Quebecers who have benefitted are quick to point out the success rate of mothers going back to work thanks to a system where parents pay less than $10 a day for child care.
During the 2017 British Columbia provincial electoral campaign, the BC New Democratic Party vowed to create a child care plan with more affordable parent fees, more spaces and better wages and education for those who work in child care settings.
Most of these elements had been outlined by the $10aDay Child Care Plan, a coalition that has been looking to change the dynamics surrounding this issue in British Columbia since 2011.
Public opinion has consistently been on the side of change. In 2015, a survey I conducted showed that four-in-five British Columbians favoured a proposal for child care that would cost parents $10 a day, increase the number of available spaces and improve wages and training of early childhood educators.
At that time, the provincial government in Victoria failed to give this plan the attention it deserved. It was only until the last days of May 2017, when the continuation of the BC Liberal tenure was in peril, that a hasty pledge of $1 billion for new child care spaces was issued by the outgoing premier.
In an ideological sense, the approach of some former and current BC Liberals could safely be described as “Nixonian..” It was U.S. President Richard Nixon who in 1971 vetoed a bill that would have reconstructed a national child-care system that existed during the Second World War, arguing that a “family-centered approach” to child rearing was superior to “communal approaches.”
Almost four decades later, Nixon’s words continue to ring hollower. A survey of British Columbians conducted earlier this year by Research Co. on behalf of $10aDay shows that child care is nowhere near as easy for families as it once may have been.
In our survey, 70% of parents who currently have a kid enrolled in child care say their return to work was delayed because of lack of access to a space, and 76% acknowledge the cost of child care has put a financial strain on their families.
The long wait times that parents have to endure are still a problem. Thirty eight per cent say they waited at least five months before a child care space became available for their child. These parents were not able to return to work as quickly as they envisioned. Or perhaps they ended up resorting to alternatives that are significantly more expensive (such as a nanny or individual caregiver) or dangerous (such as unlicensed facilities).
There are, however, some reasons to rejoice, with 64% of parents saying that the government investments in child care are having a positive impact on their situations. Some features are getting better, but more work needs to be done.
British Columbians who do not currently have a need for child care are also cognisant of what can be achieved. Sixty six per cent believe the provincial government should continue to make public funding for child care a priority in order to make it more affordable and available for families.
In addition, 76% want the provincial government to move more quickly to achieve the goal of quality, affordable child care.
Child care may become an issue in the upcoming federal election as well. A Liberal government that has decided to deal with plastic use and refuse as a nationwide endeavour may feel compelled to connect with urban voters by offering to play a role in meeting their child care requirements. Taking this conversation to a national level can only help young parents or those who are hoping to join them in the next few years.
Results are based on an online study conducted from May 9 to May 12, 2019, among 800 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error –which measures sample variability – is +/- 3.5 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.