Child-care funds drying up
When activist moms gathered for a Mother Day's rally organized by Grassroots Women, they came asking for more than just chocolates and flowers. With their children in tow at East Vancouver's Grandview Park, they demanded a universal child-care system in the face of funding cuts by the federal and provincial governments.
Speaking at the rally, lawyer Luningning Alcuitas-Imperial said Canada relies on the Live-In Caregiver Program as its de facto national program, wherein women from poor countries serve in wealthy Canadian homes.
"[Canadian] mothers are encouraged to make the patriarchal and class-based 'choice' to stay at home," Alcuitas-Imperial read from a statement. "Yet without access to affordable, accessible child care, working-class women are pushed into low-wage, flexible jobs, denied educational opportunities, forced to make enormous sacrifices to provide for the basic needs of our families and communities."
According to the Coalition of Child Care Advocates, the B.C. Liberal government is slashing up to $40 million for child-care services between April and October this year.
CCCA chair Susan Harney told the Georgia Straight that by July 1, subsidies for preschool children in licensed group and family-based child-care services will be reduced by 27 percent.
"Right now, programs get $14 a day as a top-up for kids under three years old," Harney cited as an example. "They are cutting that to $10. Programs are now going to have charge parents an additional $4."
Harney also said that by October 1, funding for resource, referral, and training programs will be reduced by 77 percent.
Rose Bonnardel, a community outreach worker for the past eight years, didn't have until October 1. Back on April 30, she lost her job when the province stopped its $800,000 funding for the Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre.
"The province has a surplus of $2 billion," Bonnardel told the Straight. "Tell me why this is happening at all."
Paul Kershaw is an assistant professor at the UBC–based Human Early Learning Partnership, an institute dedicated to early child-development research. Kershaw told the Straight that with higher fees, low- and moderate-income families would drop out of licensed child-care services, and the vacated spaces would be taken over by higher-income families.
"When fees go up, the nature of who is served by our child-care services changes," Kershaw said. "So the cuts kind of pit higher-income versus lower-income families in an awkward way in neighbourhoods and potentially bring in people who don't live in the neighbourhood–higher-income families–to take advantage of services available in the boundaries of lower-income neighbourhoods."
When the Straight reached Minister of State for Child Care Linda Reid on May 11, she said she had just come back from a groundbreaking ceremony for a new child-care facility in Richmond.
Reid said it was the federal Conservative government that actually cut the funds by cancelling the child-care agreements it had with the provinces as of March 31. She said this meant a loss of $455 million for B.C. over a three-year period.
"The province didn't reduce their funding," Reid said. "The federal government took back their dollar. Everything that the province funded in the past we continue to fund."
Reid also said that Victoria doesn't agree with the federal government's position that it merely took away some money from child-care providers and returned it directly to families in the form of a $100-per-month child-care allowance for each kid under the age of six.
"We don't accept that's a fair trade, because we're not in a position to build more spaces," Reid said. "Families aren't going to pool their $100 each and build a child-care space."
Sharon Gregson, a Vancouver school trustee and child-care advocate, countered that Reid is "playing a game of smoke and mirrors".
"Other provincial governments are not being as draconian with their cuts as the B.C. government is," Gregson told the Straight. "Since the Liberal government was elected in B.C. in 2001, they've done nothing but cut their own provincial spending on child care."
A Human Early Learning Partnership Web site fact sheet states that starting in 2002, the provincial government instituted a series of cuts that eventually reduced its child-care funding by $50 million annually.
The CCCA has partnered with the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union for a campaign that will involve community dialogues across B.C. from May 11 to 25.