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Chilliwack child care staff rally to restore funding

Chilliwack Child Care Resource and Referral Centre staff will join others from around the province at a rally today (Tuesday) in Victoria demanding the B.C. government reverse cutbacks forcing the closure of 45 referral centres in the province.

Instead of cutbacks, the government should be investing more in child care, says Barb Presseau, manager of the Chilliwack Child Care Resource and Referral Centre.

“The reality is, what they need to do is invest what they supported in September,” she said, given the increasing number of parents seeking safe child care providers while they work, and the long-term benefits to society when children get an early educational start by attending day care.

The centres provide parents with referrals to approved child care agencies, and provide training, monitoring, and equipment among other services to the child care providers.

Last month, MLA Linda Reid, B.C. minister of state for children, announced the referral centres will have their budges slashed by March and their doors closed permanently by Sept. 30 due to the loss of $455 million in federal funds following cancellation of its agreement with the province.

Mike Clarke, chair of the BC Government Employees Union child care committee, said it’s hoped the rally Tuesday will force the B.C. government to reverse the cuts – using some of the province’s billion-dollar budget surplus.

“We are confused why (the cuts are being made) when there are budget surpluses in both provincial and federal governments,” he said Friday. “The whole system is in crisis. We feel families are in dire need.”

There are waiting lists “in the hundreds” at some child care agencies, he said and others are asking parents for notes to prove they have a child because some are applying even before children are born to ensure a place on the waiting list.

“The need is huge,” he said. “We see families in dire straights.”

He also said the referral centres had been told earlier by B.C. government officials not to worry about funding this year, so many went ahead with long-term leases and vehicle purchases only to be told about the cutbacks in a Jan. 5 announcement.

About 180 Chilliwack daycare providers and parents confronted MLA Reid at a town hall meeting here earlier this month fearful that closure of the referral centres will reduce the quality and safety of child care services in B.C.

One parent at the meeting said that before she discovered child care resource and referral (CCRR) centres she was “terrified” of leaving her children alone with an unknown provider while she went to work.

“I don’t want to go back to the days before CCRRs,” she said. “I really don’t see taking a step backward like this.”

The newly-elected Tory government cancelled a $5-billion Liberal daycare plan shortly after the election and replaced it with a $100 subsidy sent directly to parents. The government also expects 125,000 child care spaces will be created over the next five years through a $250 million fund set up to offer tax credits to daycare investors.

Starting this year, the Tory government is also helping parents of children under 16 with the costs of organized sports registration fees through a $500 Children’s Fitness tax credit.

For children with disabilities, the tax credit would apply to those under the age of 18, and a separate $500 amount will be available to them where a minimum of $100 is spent on registration fees for an eligible program.

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