Kelowna parents are absorbing a significant cost for childcare services when compared to other cities across Canada. (Contributed)

Kelowna at forefront of child care cost crisis

New study advocates higher daycare cost subsidies; more funding focus on non-profit child care services

Kelowna is a focal point for a new report advocating for the NDP provincial government to direct more child care funding to non-profit daycares.

The report comes with significant childcare funding announcements expected this spring at both the federal and provincial government levels.

Advocate Iglika Ivanova says the province has an opportunity to do a reset with funding as reliance on the private sector in B.C. is only passing a greater cost burden onto parents.

In the study, titled Sounding The Alarm: COVID-19’s impact on Canada’s precarious childcare sector released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ivanova helped survey 37 cities across the country and found some of the highest fee increases for three to five year olds were in B.C. from 2019 to 2020.

The five cities surveyed in B.C. were Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond and Kelowna.

READ MORE: Seeking to expand Kelowna, West Kelowna child care resources

READ MORE: 35 after-school child care space coming to West Kelowna

Kelowna registered a seven per cent increase for five to seven year olds, trailing only Surrey and Richmond; while fees for 18 months to three year olds saw Kelowna post the highest at 12 per cent, ahead of Richmond at eight per cent and Vancouver and Surrey next at five per cent.

The bottom line is B.C. parents are paying up to $9,000 more per child than are parents in more heavily subsidized provinces, such as Quebec.

Ivanova argues the survey, which has been carried out for the past seven years, reveals how relying on a for-profit model for daycare shortfalls is not an efficient use of public funds.

She said child care in B.C. should function in the same subsidized fashion as the school system, a benefit on a social and job creation economic basis she says many other countries have already realized.

She stated increased cost in child care subsidy funding is off-set by parents finding it easier to return to the workforce thus generating more income tax revenue and spending their income in their communities, helping single and working poor parents get out of poverty, and get single mothers off the welfare rolls with greater financial incentive to find a job.

“The public investment of child care going forward is going to be crucial in our recovery of COVID-19,” said Ivanova.

According to Ivanovic, funding made available to daycare services should come with stipulations that don’t exist now, such as maximum rate charges.

She said other provinces – Quebec and Newfoundland for example – already have mandated maximum daycare fee charges in place.

Ivanova envisions a $10 a day fee, amounting to $200 a month, with the remaining cost subsidized by the government.

“The differences in how much parents pay for child care fees across Canada is staggering. Provinces, where child care is left largely to market forces, have considerably higher fees than those who have taken measures to promote affordability.

“B.C. is in the middle with the government providing more funding than provinces like Ontario, but B.C. maintains a reliance on the (private sector) market.”

When the new NDP government initially made more grant funding available, the grants were wide open to for-profit and non-profit daycares, but the primary applicants were from the private sector.

“So you end up spending public dollars for private businesses to grow, and parents have to pay fees in order to allow these businesses to survive, ” she said.

“There is going to be a lot of money on the table for child care funding over the next few years and there is an opportunity to get it right this time.

“We rank very low as a country in how we fund child care services so the time has come to do something about that.”

She added wages for early childhood educators, now averaging about $18 an hour, also need to increase to allow daycare operators to retain staff.

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