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B.C. launches $10-a-day daycare project at 53 sites

Squamish centre selected for pilot project
FINALLY AFFORDABLE The B.C. government is testing a program that will provide families across the province with $10-per-day childcare.

Parents will save thousands of dollars if their children are enrolled in one of 53 child-care centres that will offer $10-a-day daycare as part of a B.C. government pilot project.

The 53 prototype sites, including one in Squamish, will offer $10-a-day daycare until March 2020 as the government explores the feasibility of one of its key election promises: universal affordable childcare.

Parents at the prototype daycares will pay no more than $200-a-month per child. The provincial and federal governments will spend $60 million to subsidize daycare for the parents of about 2,500 children, Premier John Horgan announced Friday, Nov.9 at one of the prototype daycare sites in Vancouver.

Horgan said he has heard from many parents who say their child-care costs are more than their rent or mortgage, which is not sustainable for working British Columbians.

The B.C. NDP made $10-a-day childcare a key pillar of its 2017 election campaign.

B.C.'s minister of state for childcare Katrina Chen said these prototypes are critical as the government designs and refines its program.

The province selected the sites after a call for applications in June 2018. While priority was given to sites that had infant and toddler spaces, the province has expanded eligibility to include other types of licensed childcare.

"We are finding new ways to make it easier for families to get by every month and to save for the future," said Horgan. "Through this kind of action, where we significantly reduce the cost of child care, we can make life more affordable.

Under the initiative, childcare providers at the new prototype sites will receive government funding to cover their operational and administration costs. In return, they will reduce parent fees to a maximum of $200 per month for full-time enrolment during regular hours and will share their feedback with the B.C. government to help inform the future implementation of universal care.

"This project takes a major step towards universal child care in British Columbia. The demand for this program was so strong that we expanded it to cover more children and more sites in every region of the province in the prototype stage," said Katrine Conroy, federal Minister of Children and Family Development. "We want to make life more affordable for families, and this investment will demonstrate the low-cost, high-quality care B.C. parents can look forward to as we fully implement ChildCare BC."

As well, each site will receive a one-time quality improvement grant in 2019 to help enhance the quality of the programs it delivers. The amount of the quality improvement grant for each site will be determined as part of the province's evaluations of the sites' programs and improvement plans.

"Prototype sites give us a glimpse of what the future of universal child care in B.C. can be, and are critical as we design and refine our program moving forward," said Katrina Chen, B.C.'s Minister of State for Child Care. "They build on the work we've already done to bring affordability relief to thousands of families through universal fee reductions and the Affordable Child Care Benefit."

Families at Squamish's Discovery Kids Childcare are now part of a B.C. government universal childcare prototype project.

"Children are the experts at Discovery Kids Childcare, with their passions and interests driving daily activities," said Chen in a release. "To develop these activities, the educators work in concert with the children, guiding them, encouraging them and inspiring them."

The centre's programming is derived from the Reggio Emilia approach, which encourages children to learn through exploration and discovery. Children also learn about Indigenous culture through activities such as weaving, story time and acting. The centre provides ongoing professional development and supports for its staff, including sponsoring educators new to Canada.

"This project models what high-quality, affordable, universal child care may look like for B.C. families," added Conroy in a statement.

Parents who are not accessing these low-cost spaces may still be eligible for support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per child a month for families with an annual income of $111,000 or less. Families using licensed child care may also see savings through the Child Care Fee Reduction, which has so far helped to reduce the cost of almost 52,000 child care spaces around the province.

-With files from Canadian Press