Premier Christy Clark pledges $1 billion for new child care spaces

Click here to view the original article.

[One can only assume she actually expects people to fall for this. See also: 6 times Christy Clark refused to ban corporate money before she lost her majority and flip-flopped. *RON*]

Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, 21 June 2017

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark receives high fives prior to addressing a gathering in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, June 21, 2017. The B.C. Legislature will return on Thursday and the government will give their Speech from the Throne. JONATHAN HAYWARD / CP
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark said her government will offer to spend $1 billion to make child care virtually free for middle-income families when her government returns to the legislature Thursday for its throne speech.

Clark said the proposed new funding to help parents find affordable child care and early childhood education is one of the lessons her party learned from voters when it lost seats in the May 9 election.

“When you need child care, you need it now,” she told a told a B.C. Liberal party women’s lunch event on Wednesday.

“People said in the election they wanted us to do more on child care, we heard that really loudly and clearly,” she told reporters after her speech. “Elections are about listening to people and responding, it’s not about stubbornly saying you know what’s right.”

The money would come from amending February’s Liberal budget, said Clark, and would create 60,000 new spaces over four years, in addition to 13,000 new spaces promised earlier by her government.

It would also include a full subsidy for families that earn up to $60,000 a year, and a partial subsidy for incomes up to $100,000, potentially making 150,000 families eligible for financial support, said Clark. That means for families up to the $60,000 mark “it’s going to be low or no cost” for childcare spaces, said Clark.

Currently, the government offers full child care subsidies to families with household incomes of fewer than $40,000, so the change expands that support up to the $60,000 mark.

The full amount of savings will vary depending on the region of the province and cost of the childcare space, say government officials, but could mean free spaces for some parents and a cut of around 50 per cent to the amounts already being paid by some families.

The partial subsidies for families earning up to $100,000 are new.

“There will be those who say we are only doing it because we want to get votes,” said Clark. “What I would say to them is voters have spoken, they have told us what they wanted us to do.”

Prior to the election, Clark’s Liberals rejected calls for a $1.5 billion universal child care plan, saying it was unaffordable and would require a tax hike.

B.C. had projected a $295 million surplus this fiscal year, in the February budget, but Clark said internal figures are showing “we’ve had a much bigger than expected surplus this year” and there is money available to fund the childcare plan. There’s also, theoretically, an additional $2.5 billion in forecast allowances, surpluses and contingencies over the budget’s three-year fiscal plan.

“It’s the biggest investment anybody has ever made in one shot in child care in the province,” she said. Clark also took a shot at the NDP’s $10-a-day childcare plan, which would take 10 years to implement, saying “that’s too long.”

During the election, the Liberals claimed the NDP childcare plan was unaffordable and irresponsible. However, voters responded warmly to the New Democrats, and the NDP made significant inroads in Metro Vancouver, where affordability proved a deciding factor among voters. The NDP say they will stick with the plan if and when the party forms government. The Greens promised free childcare.

NDP Leader John Horgan mocked Clark for mimicking his platform to try and stay in power.

“Apparently there’s going to be an NDP throne speech tomorrow,” Horgan told an NDP caucus meeting in Victoria. “It is really hard to believe that after 16 years of ignoring child care, ignoring people with disabilities, ignoring income assistance rates, that all of a sudden after people have rejected you at the polls that our platform looks pretty appealing.”

He said the Liberals are “making stuff up.”

“My message to the people back home in your constituencies right across British Columbia, help is on the way, do not be distracted by the people behind the curtains who are trying to make you think they care about you now,” he said. “Because they didn’t a month and a half ago, and they won’t a month and a half from now.”

Clark said her goal would be to expand the hours of operation in school buildings and co-locate the child care services where possible in those locations because children are already there.

Clark said her Thursday throne speech will take the best ideas from all parties in the election, and include new items such as a poverty reduction plan (which the NDP have been advocating for years), improvements to mental health services and a reduction in waiting times for knee and hip surgeries.

“Nobody in British Columbia wants an election, lets figure out how we make the results of this election work for British Columbians,” she said.

Sharon Gregson, a spokeswoman for the $10 a Day Child Care campaign, called the timing of Clark’s announcement “almost disrespectful to families.”

First released in 2011, the $10-a-day plan calls for an expansion in publicly funded child care — community-delivered spaces that’ll get the majority of their funding through the ministry of education and school boards rather than from fees paid by parents.

The plan would reduce fees for infant and toddler care to $10 a day; add 22,000 spaces in the next three years; and invest in the training and education of early childhood educators.

“I think the Liberal government has had so many chances to do the right thing. To see this done now is just so hollow, it’s hard to be celebratory,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said her campaign was ready to move forward.

“Our goal has been to make sure childcare is an election issue,” she said. “The $10-a-day plan, and those that promote it, are non-partisan.”

“Whoever forms government, we will work with to fix child care. We would expect that to be done in good faith.”

“The NDP and the Greens both had substantial child care commitments,” she added. “We’re ready to work with any government but for the Liberals to do this this late, it seems desperate.”

The head of the YWCA in Metro Vancouver said no matter the timing of Clark’s announcement, “the goal is to get it done.”

“We welcome investment in childcare,” Janet Austin said. “The more people we have at the table, the better. What’s important to us is the direction we’re going in.”

The YWCA has been running a social media campaign pointing out the economic benefits of improved childcare; they claim investment in universal childcare would lead to 69,000 new jobs and a $5.8 billion boost to the economy.

“It’s a foundational social and economic investment, it’s not a drain,” Austin said. “It will build our economy significantly.”

“We’re pleased the message has gotten through.”

Clark has already foreshadowed other key planks of what could be her government’s final throne speech at the legislature Thursday.

The NDP and Greens signed a power-sharing deal last month to vote down the throne speech, topple the Liberal government and force Clark’s resignation as early as next week. The Greens have then pledged to support a new NDP administration for four years.

Several of the Liberal throne speech promises mark major reversals in policy during the government’s dying days, including a $100 monthly raise to the welfare rate (after 10 years in which the Liberals refused to increase assistance payments) and a ban on corporate and union donations (which the Liberals campaigned against during the election).

Clark has also abandoned the requirement for Metro Vancouver mayors to hold a referendum on new sources of funding for transit, after a multi-year fight between the province and Lower Mainland municipalities.

The Liberals intend to stick to their core philosophy of fiscal responsibility and prudence, said Clark, but intend to better share the province’s wealth with those who need it.

“People said to us they want us to listen better, they want us to be different,” she said.

“There are some things I think we can take from the election. People want a better balance, they want us to take that economic strength… and make sure we are investing that back into sharing it better with the people who need it in the kind of social programs and social safety net people can depend upon.”

Clark also took a shot at the NDP, which is internally preparing to transition to power.

“Just because the NDP feels it’s their time to take over the government, that doesn’t change the math in the outcome of the election,” she said, noting her party won 43 seats compared to the NDP’s 41.

However, the power-sharing deal between the NDP and Greens gives the two parties a combined 44 seats.

Clark reiterated Wednesday she intends to stay on as Opposition leader if her government fails to keep the confidence of the house.

— with files from Patrick Johnston

Comments

Popular Posts

Kinder Morgan's $771,000 donation to B.C. Liberals raises red flags while Premier shifts to damage control

Does Even Mark Zuckerberg Know What Facebook Is?

The Pharma Jerk We All Hated Last Month Still Hasn’t Dropped the Price of That Drug