News / Vancouver

NDP accuses B.C. Premier of ‘Trump-like’ lies on child care

NDP MLA Jodie Wickens says Christy Clark’s denouncement of its $10 a day child care plan is Trump-like: “She just makes stuff up.”

Children attend a public event at the Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, B.C. on Oct. 13, 2015 in this file photo.

David P. Ball/Metro File

Children attend a public event at the Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, B.C. on Oct. 13, 2015 in this file photo.

The gloves are already off as the British Columbia election campaign gets underway, with an NDP MLA accusing Premier Christy Clark of “Trump-like” lies on child care.

Clark launched the BC Liberals’ platform Monday, reiterating government’s previous commitment to create 13,000 new child care spaces by 2020.

While doing so, she took a shot at the NDP’s plan for a $10 a day child care system in B.C., comparing it to Quebec’s, where she says a similar model has created long wait lists.

“Some parents waited for years to try to get their children into day care,” Clark said, adding her plan, “won’t create long wait lists and it won’t raise taxes.”

On Friday, she said Quebec’s system led to “massive shortages” of day care spaces.

“Everybody suddenly moved their kids into day care, even though they could afford a nanny or something like that,” she said. “A lot of people started rushing to put their kids into unlicensed, unregulated spaces. We don’t need that to happen in British Columbia.”

Clark’s denouncement of the $10 a day plan come when B.C. is under fire for its own lack of affordable child care spaces, and after Shelley Sheppard – a Vancouver mother whose 16-month-old son died at an unlicensed day care in January – wrote an open letter to the premier about the shortage of regulated options for parents.

Jodie Wickens, the NDP MLA for Coqutilam-Burke Mountain, said she was shocked by Clark’s comments given the situation in B.C.

“She just makes stuff up,” said Wickens. “There have been people that have come from Quebec to talk about the system there and the things that she’s saying about it simply aren’t true. It’s a lot of fear mongering and, quite frankly, Trump-like. The system that we currently have in place is completely chaotic … it needs reform.”

Wickens says the B.C. NDP plan also includes creating more spaces and providing better pay for child care workers, but said specifics won’t be available until the party’s platform is released Thursday.

Meanwhile, child care worker and advocate Sharon Gregson said the Liberal child care plan is “absolutely appalling.”

“Even if they were to create that many spaces, it would not be keeping up with the birth rate,” she said. “Fees get higher every year for families and the number of spaces that we have do not keep up.”

She said just 20 per cent of children in B.C. have access to child care – which can cost families more than $1,500 a month – compared to 60 per cent under Quebec’s $10 a day system.

Simply creating new spaces doesn’t address affordability either, she added.

Gregson is spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., which released a report Monday showing that the Liberal government has actually spent $96 million less than it budgeted for on child care over the past four years.

“This is $100 million that could have a significant impact for families and their children,” she said. “There are lots of ways this could have been spent to mitigate the chaos that exists in B.C.’s child care right now.”

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux sent Metro a statement in response to the report, saying that despite the under-spending, “Government has met and is on track to exceed all of our BC Early Years Strategy targets by 2020-21.”

“In certain situations, to ensure we meet priorities – such as protecting children – it may be necessary and appropriate to re-direct funding from one program or service area to another,” Cadieux said.

The B.C. Green Party is promising publicly funded day care for children under three and 25 hours of early childhood education a week for three and four year olds under its platform.

 

-with files from Jen St. Denis

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