Most private operators in Maple Ridge have agreed they will not be opting in to Victoria’s new plan for daycares, fearing the government is going to push them out of business.
They met last month at The Well, 15 people representing 11 of the largest childcare centres in the city. They agreed to not take the deal, even though it would reduce fees for their clients – as much as $350 for an infant and toddler and $100 per child three and older.
Opting in would also mean operators giving away their right to independently increase rates, and start on the government’s path to universal child care, they say.
“There are way too many discrepancies in the contract verses the CCOF’s fact sheet, and way too much uncertainty,” said Brittany Zimmerman, who operates Conscious Kids Care in Maple Ridge.
“The NDP have been very candid in saying they want all daycares to be non-profit and ran by the government.
“To sign off on something that gives them control over my rates is terrifying.”
The group has joined the new B.C. Childcare Owners Association, and met with Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith. Zimmerman also started a petition at change.org, demanding government include private daycares in future plans.
Zimmerman said she re-mortgaged her house to get her business running, so losing her business could cost her almost everything. It is her income today, and selling the business would secure her retirement someday, she said.
“I will not opt into the contract until they explain where they see private childcare centers in the future,” she added. “Of course we want to give our families discounts on childcare, but not at the cost of losing everything we have worked for.”
The government announced its $1 billion investment in childcare to help reduce costs for families.
Saskia Nicholls, of KinderHeart Montessori in Pitt Meadows, has opted into the plan, to cut costs for her client families.
“When you’re a parent, paying for daycare is expensive,” she said, adding that many of her families have more than one child in the centre.
Nicholls said she had no intention of raising her rates significantly, so she opted in to give parents a break.
However, she said the issue of staff wages in childcare is an important issue that should have been addressed by government first – which would help all daycares attract much-needed staff to the industry.
She said the government has committed to adding 22,000 new daycare spaces in its plan, but attracting enough staff for that many spaces will be a challenge.
Nicholls is not worried about the future of her business, “because governments can change, too.”
She said $100-a-day daycare has been an issue for 20 years, but she does not believe it is workable.
“I think they have to work with the system they have, not change the entire system,” she said.
Reaghan Gasparre, of Little Willows, is also not opting in, and says most private daycares have not. She said the province is fudging figures to make parents think most daycares are opting in.
Gasparre said this issue has upset the industry, and there are meetings of daycare operators going on in the Lower Mainland regularly.
She wants government assurance that private daycare operators will be allowed to stay in business.
“For me, I just want them to give me a straight answer about where they see private daycare. What’s their plan?”
The government could start by restoring past funding of up to $250,000 to cover capital expenses for private daycares, which has been taken off the table. The $500,000 it offers eligible non-profit daycares is still in place.
“Our eligibility should be restored,” she said. “That would be a sign of good faith.”
Premier John Horgan was unapologetic about the government’s approach, saying recently “parents in every corner of B.C. will start seeing their child care bills go down next month.”
The government extended a deadline to opt in from April 1 to April 20.
“These fee reductions will offer families relief, and help people, particularly women, return to work. No one should be forced to choose between child care and other family needs,” said Horgan.