Editorial: Universal problem

Parents shouldn’t expect an immediate end to problem of finding affordable daycare

Families seeking daycare relief may be watching their child graduate from high school before seeing any meaningful changes in B.C.

This wouldn’t be a big deal if young families weren’t already tapped out paying for mortgages, but a second mortgage in the form of child care fees is making life even less affordable.

What’s more, there is a daycare shortage in Maple Ridge, with many working families struggling just to find a spot.

Canadians aren’t big on paying for other kids’ daycare, and that’s why we have the patchwork system we have now. Even the federal government’s much vaunted daycare plan is targeted mostly to low-income and marginal communities. While that’s good and needed, your average family is not likely to see much benefit.

There is great ambivalence towards universal child care supports in this country, unlike in some European countries, where it’s seen as an important pillar of society. Here, child care is seen as an individual responsibility.

In B.C., the $10-a-day plan proposed by the New Democrats is in jeopardy because of what is likely to be a short-lived NDP-Green partnership. Even if that plan were to succeed, it would have taken years to fully roll out while a switch back to a BC Liberal government or any downturn in the economy would kill it.

In Quebec, where a $7-a-day plan gets the most attention, the realities of such a scheme have not lived up to the promise. Public daycare spots are limited, because governments are only willing to put so much money into daycare; thus, only about a third of families get access to them, creating long waiting lists and concerns about substandard care.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government has slowly increased fees while even modestly higher income families are taxed back on the subsidies. While it does seem that Quebec’s system has reduced costs for daycare for more families than those who get subsidies in B.C. (targeting only families earning less than $40,000 to $55,000) the cost constraints have resulted in a less than perfect system.

So for B.C. to get a long-term, universal daycare plan, such as the NDP has pledged, is a tricky proposal at best and, sadly for thousands of families, may even be a non-starter.

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