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Canada NDP, Liberals spar over child care progress

09:50  28 november  2019
09:50  28 november  2019 Source:   vancouversun.com

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The NDP 's Tom Mulcair has been touting his party 's -a-day national child - care plan at almost every campaign stop. But it could take two NDP terms and a bunch of provincial The Liberals were promising to spend billion over five years to create 250,000 new licensed daycare spaces.

VICTORIA — B.C.’s NDP government is behind in opening the new child care spaces it promised, according to figures released Wednesday by the Opposition Liberals. But the minister responsible says thousands of new spaces are on the way and still count toward reaching the government’s goals.

The NDP promised to fund “24,000 new child care spaces over the next three years” in its 2018 budget — a figure that includes 22,000 provincially funded spaces and 2,000 federally funded spots.

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Half-way through that timeline, only 2,055 spaces are open and operational, according to ministry statistics the Liberals quoted during Question Period on Wednesday.

Another 10,558 spaces are “funded” but not yet open, the statistics show.

The government has “missed by a country mile” its goals, said Opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson.

“Rather than 24,000 spaces, we have 2,000 spaces,” he said. “That’s a 91-per-cent failure rate.

a group of people sitting at a table eating food: B.C. minister of state for child care, Katrina Chen, says thousands of new child care spaces are coming to meet her government's promises, but so far only 2,055 have actually opened. © Jason Payne B.C. minister of state for child care, Katrina Chen, says thousands of new child care spaces are coming to meet her government's promises, but so far only 2,055 have actually opened. “At this rate, it’s going to take 14 years to reach 24,000 … because (the minister) is going to pretend funding spaces is creating spaces.”

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Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen said many more spots should be open within months.

“In terms of the spaces that are open, up and running, we have about 2,000,” she said.

“But we have about 1,600 that are being built at this moment, in the coming months that will be open. And we have more to come, so our commitment is to support a creation of 22,000, and we’ve supported a creation of 10,000.”

Chen’s ministry said the 1,600 additional spots will open for parents within the next six months. If 2017 funding is factored in, as well as partnership with municipalities, First Nations and Ottawa, the ministry argued the total spaces funded so far is 15,242.

Chen appeared to indicate her government will consider the promises kept after three years even if some of the spaces are funded but not yet open to the public. Her ministry pointed to previous child care announcements, under the former Liberal government, that counted child care spaces before construction was complete.

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Liberal child care critic Laurie Throness said the government is further fudging its figures because it is counting money and spaces used to help convert existing unlicensed child care businesses into fully licensed spaces that do not provide a net gain to the system or parents.

“When you look at the numbers more closely, they get even worse because the government promised new spaces, not old ones,” said Throness.

“Of the 2,055 spaces, 877 were created through the new spaces fund. But the rest are from a start-up fund to help existing spaces become licensed.”

The new spaces are one of several child care promises by the NDP. The government also brought in extra funding for child care subsidies that has cut fees for certain parents that qualify. Its election pledge to create a $10-a-day child care program is a 10-year work in progress, with 53 prototype sites serving approximately 2,500 children.

But the funding for the prototype sites come from a $60-million agreement with the federal government that expires in March and has not yet been renewed.

Finance Minister Carole James said she raised the issue recently with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and expects Premier John Horgan to also ask for an extension to the funding from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The federal government ran as well on support for child care, so I’m going to be optimistic,” James said this week. “And we have had positive indicators early that we will see those dollars continue.”

rshaw@postmedia.com

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