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B.C. drops waitlist fees for child care spaces

Effective April 1, the move comes as government faces pressure over $10-a-day child care promise
Licensed child care facilities in B.C. will no longer be able to charge waitlist fees. The move, effective April 1, comes as government faces questions about the availability of availability of $10-a-day child care. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

B.C. families face fewer financial barriers in finding child care after the province eliminated waitlist fees.

About five per cent of B.C.’s child care providers were charging families anywhere between $25 to $200 or more to put their names on a waitlist. But the province has prohibited this practice effective April 1.

Mitzi Dean, minister of state for child care, said child care is expensive enough without fees.

“Eliminating waitlist fees will mean that families no longer face having to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars simply to find a child care space,” Dean said. “We’re supporting families with the cost of child care, and now that starts when families are looking for a spot.”

Parent Gerónimo Ratcliffe welcomed the end of waitlist fees. Because of financial limits, Ratcliffe said his family was unable to afford fees of $50 or higher across 20 to 30 different establishments. “Not having this barrier will definitely help us find a place for our second baby and compete for the spots, no matter our financial status,” Ratcliffe said.

The elimination of waitlist fees comes as the provincial government faces pressure over the availability of $10-a-day child care.

Provincial New Democrats had promised universal $10-a-day child care within 10 years in 2017, then again in 2020, but the joint program with the federal governemnt is not close to meeting that goal. According to the Child Care Advocates of B.C., 14,000 — or 10 per cent — of all child care spaces are $10-a-day spaces and the group has been critical of the program’s pace.

“We are surprised government is not increasing provincial investments to more quickly expand the success of $10-a-day child care,” Sharon Gregson, spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. “Especially as government has acknowledged that child care progress to date has resulted in significantly more women in the workforce.”

RELATED: Several B.C. areas among the worst ‘child-care deserts’ in Canada: report

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B.C.’s contribution to the program in the 2024 budget is about $250 million, with the federal contribution just over $1 billion.

“Despite the largest inflationary deficit in B.C.’s history, this NDP government has utterly failed to deliver on their signature election promise of universal $10-a-day child care,” Karin Kirkpatrick, B.C. United’s shadow minister for housing, child care, autism and accessibility, gender equity and inclusion said in late February. “Access is getting worse, not better. Over 10,000 fewer children are in child care, with parents often facing a three-year nightmare wait-list.”

Government has defended its record.

“B.C. is actually a leader on child care,” Katrine Conroy, finance minister, said in late February. “We brought the federal government to the table.”

Conroy said more than 120,000 families are saving of up to $900 per month. “(That’s) a game-changer for families,” she said. “Thousands of parents are paying $10 a day for child care. We’ve funded more than 34,000 new licensed care spaces, with more to come.”

According to government, the average child care cost has dropped to $18 per day from $53 in 2017.

Child care has become more affordable, but also more difficult to find, according to a report from Statistics Canada report in early December.

These findings match the conclusions of a study by the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives.

It found almost two of three B.C. children not yet attending Kindergarten live in so-called child-care deserts: postal codes with more than three children below school age for every full-time licensed child-care space.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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