A child in day care plays with a toy | After decades of advocacy, the provincial and federal governments have announced an investment of $3.2 billion over five years in quality, universal and affordable childcare

$10aDay: Affordable Childcare is Coming to BC

After decades of advocacy by communities across BC, the Province of BC and Government of Canada have announced an investment of $3.2 billion over five years in quality, affordable and universal childcare.

Motivated by the $10aDay campaign – a community response to BC’s childcare crisis developed by The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and the Early Childhood Educators of BC – the funding aims to slash average daycare fees by 50 percent and add 12,500 affordable childcare sites across the province, all by December 2022.

Wait, we have a childcare crisis in Canada?

Canada has one of the best educational systems in the world – for kids over five. For kids under five, we have one of the worst systems in the developed nations in terms of quality and availability.

At the heart of it, childcare is expensive and limited. So much so that it’s common for parents to sign up their children for daycare before they’re born to ensure a spot. Others rely on family members or friends to look after their kids so they can work. Still others have no alternatives, and one of the parents has to quit their job or reduce their hours dramatically to stay home (it’s even harder for single parents, who don’t have this option). And even if parents can secure a spot in a nearby daycare, it’s often so expensive they have to take out loans or lines of credit to pay for it.

“We did a research study on affordable daycare a few years ago, and it was eye-opening. But when my child was born, that data became my reality,” says James Raymond, Vancouver Economic Commission’s Research manager. “I pay $40,000 annually for childcare for two children – that’s more than many tuitions. Discussing unaffordable, inaccessible daycare in a professional context is one thing, but when you live it personally you truly understand that it’s a vital thing that needs to be fixed.”

The childcare crisis isn’t new. Childcare has been unaffordable and inaccessible for decades – but it took a global pandemic to throw the situation in its harshest light, revealing that high-quality, affordable childcare is necessary not only for happy families, but also to keep the economy running.

How $10aDay childcare can boost the economy (and save our mental health)

At the heart of the $10aDay initiative is a focus on equity – for the people offering childcare, for families struggling to pay exorbitant fees, and for women who bear the brunt of these challenges.

Childcare is one of the biggest causes of stress for families with young children, with many households going into debt so they can afford it. The $10aDay system aims to eliminate this stress while holding governments accountable to ensure affordable childcare commitments are fully implemented.

On the other side of the coin is the educators delivering childcare. $10aDay asks for increased compensation and improved working conditions for early childhood educators, using a provincial wage grid that prioritizes equity.

But it’s not just parents and childcare workers who will benefit from universally affordable and accessible daycare. A 2020 report by the Centre for Future Work found that jobs created by an expanded childcare system, paired with increased participation by women in the labour force, could add more than $100 billion to the Canadian economy. Such a system could support post-pandemic recovery – and, even better, it will pay for itself in the long run.

“We’ve advocated for smart investments in childcare for the past decade. I remember we had companies regularly coming to the Vancouver Economic Commission and saying, ‘What can we do about this?’” said Raymond. “Over the past few years, we’ve hosted workshops for the tech and digital entertainment industries, explaining how to lobby government for affordable daycare. It’s exciting to see everyone’s collective efforts paying off and notable progress being made.”

In 2018, more than 50 $10aDay prototype sites were approved for operation through the Canada-British Columbia Early Learning and Child Care Agreement. Over the next two years, the provincial government converted 2,500 licensed childcare facilities – with a priority on infants and toddlers – into low-cost spaces. An evaluation report published in August 2020 affirmed the pilot’s success, noting that the new childcare spaces boosted families’ quality of life by 98 percent and improved mental health by 93 percent. Families lucky enough to access these pilot sites have been able to pay off debt more quickly, redirect funds towards other necessities (like health insurance) and return to work.

The ties that bind: investing in the next generation

Affordable daycare is one of the rare issues that has support from all three levels of government (federal, provincial and local). In fact, it’s become a top issue in the upcoming federal election, with the Liberal party reinforcing advocacy for $10aday childcare, and Conservative politicians responding with promises of a refundable tax credit that covers up to 75 percent of childcare costs for low-income families.

It’s also championed by school districts, community and health organizations, labour unions, businesses, Indigenous organizations and other residents. Clearly, investing in the next generation is a concept we can all get behind.

The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and the Early Childhood Educators of BC have provided the provincial government with a policy roadmap showing how government funding must be used to successfully deliver $10aDay childcare. By 2023, childcare will move into the territory of the Ministry of Education, which means we’ll be able to plan and fund childcare programs the same way we do elementary schools – as a public service, not a for-profit business.

“Before the pandemic, most people knew that affordable childcare was important. Now, after parents like myself have spent over a year trying to educate and look after our children while still working ourselves, we know it’s an essential service,” says Raymond. “I’m very excited about $10aDay becoming a reality, after so many years of advocacy. After all, it’s hard to find a better economic investment than childcare.”

To dive deeper into affordability in Vancouver, read Vancouver Economic Commission’s Affordability Guide. For more information on affordable childcare, visit www.10aday.ca.