The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) is urging the province to be more mindful of fair opportunity in its awarding of universal child care prototype sites.
A total of 53 sites across British Columbia were chosen for the $60 million program, which subsidizes child care centres enabling them to offer childcare services for $10 a day per family.
There was no rule as to a limit of sites per community, and some larger urban areas like Victoria or Burnaby had several sites chosen.
“It was a…firm belief that they wanted this to be available across the province due to the limited funding and to make sure there was equity across the province,” a Ministry of Children and Family Development spokesperson told Lakes District News.
The Beanstalk Childcare Centre in Houston and Little Angels Daycare in Burns Lake were selected as sites in November.
There are four licensed daycares operating in Burns Lake.
Ashurst Children’s Centre, operated by the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society (LDFES) applied to become a prototype site but was turned down, centre supervisor Debbie Marsh told Lakes District News.
“We were denied because we were taken over by the LDFES just under two years ago,” Marsh said. “We had to be in operation for over two years…Previous to that we were in operation for 25 years. The CNC [College of New Caledonia] ran us. Then they gave up all their family programs including us.”
Marsh explained that it was difficult to be informed that Ashurst wasn’t chosen.
“I mean, who wouldn’t go for $10 a day daycare? I was afraid of losing staff too because our staff was approached by another daycare. I was worried parents would take their kids out. I’m worried about recruiting new ones.”
Ashurst offers a total of 24 spots in its childcare program, including infants and toddlers and preschool. It currently has one open spot for infants-toddlers and eight for preschool.
“Little Angels can accommodate 18 children and has eight open spots at the moment,” said manager Nikki Shumka.
“We are very grateful that Burns Lake was awarded this prototype, the winner in this opportunity is the community at large,” said Shumka.
In its board of directors meeting on Dec. 13 the RDBN considered a letter expressing concern over issues of competition raised by the prototype sites program.
“The awarding of one prototype site in a rural community does pose considerable challenges for other child care facilities, which are required to maintain their original fees in order to operate sustainably,” Regional Economic Development Coordinator Nellie Davis wrote in a letter to the board.
“In rural communities with two or three daycares, having one facility be subsidized to offer low-cost child care places undue pressure on both parents and non-funded facility operation. Parents whose children are attending the only non-funded center must choose between providing continuity of care and the financial benefits of moving centers,” she wrote.
Davis went on to recommend that the RDBN board write a letter to the province to encourage it to consider the effects of awarding the childcare programs in rural communities, while taking into account equal opportunity. The board voted to submit that letter to the province.