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Federal Families Minister addresses Sea to Sky daycare crunch

Karina Gould was in Squamish to mark the one-year anniversary of a federal childcare deal.
Minister copySquamish Chua
L to R: MP Patrick Weiler, Julie Van Eesteren of Sea to Sky Community Services, Families Minister Karina Gould and Cheryl Simpson of SCSS.

During her visit to Squamish, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould acknowledged that many families still struggle to find childcare.

"We hear you, and that's exactly why we have this national early learning and childcare initiative in place. It's why a year ago [as of] Friday, we signed this agreement with British Columbia," said Gould on July 13.

She was referring to the federal government's Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

Gould was visiting the headquarters of Sea to Sky Community Services to mark the one-year anniversary of the agreement. The deal provides hundreds of millions to B.C. each year with the goal of driving down the costs of daycare. In total, the deal will fork out about $3.2 billion between 2021 and 2026.

The end goal is to reach $10-a-day childcare.

West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country MP Patrick Weiler was there to show the minister around. He said he'd invited the minister to come to Squamish, as it was a place where daycare has been a major issue.

Gould recognized that childcare circumstances are hard in Squamish, but said that change would take time.

"You can't build a childcare overnight," said Gould. 

"But we are working very collaboratively with the Province of British Columbia, and, quite frankly, all across this country, because we know that…for many people, childcare is simply unaffordable. But [that's] even if they can find a space, right? And so that's why [the] B.C. government has committed with federal funds to create an additional 40,000 spaces in this province. And we know that we need to get that work done."

During the tour, officials from Sea to Sky Community Services took the minister on a tour of their headquarters at the Centrepoint building on 38024 Fourth Ave.

One area that could use additional funding, they said, was their HPOP, or Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program, which provides services to new mothers.

The program is for those who are pregnant or whose child is six months old or less, and provides physical and mental health services in the form of a weekly drop-in discussion group, a cooking club and one-on-one support.

"MP Weiler and I are going to follow up on it," said Gould. "It's not my department; it's the Department of Health. But, nonetheless, we'll look into it."

Cheryl Simpson, manager of childcare services at Sea to Sky Community Services, told The Squamish Chief that another big childcare need involves staffing.

"Recruitment and retainment, and to have qualified staff," said Simpson.

"And I know that there is a plan in place. I'm just excited for when it actually is happening. I think that's really going to be a main focus for the government…They're looking at creating spaces. But I think a big part of it is recruitment and retainment of staff."

She said that increased, liveable wages are a big piece of addressing that issue.

However, there is some change afoot.

Simpson said that as of April this year, Squamish has eight $10-a-day daycare sites, seven of which her organization operates.

She said that daycare costs for Sea to Sky Community Services are typically about $60 a day, while private operators tend to charge roughly $100 a day.


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