It's a story that I've heard repeatedly: a parent, usually a mother, having to give up their career because it makes more sense to stay home than to pay sky-high child care fees.
As we celebrate Childcare Month this May, I'm proud to say that thanks to our historic investments in childcare, this type of story is starting to change.
I met a mom named Jamie who was able to return to the workforce because our new Affordable Child Care Benefit lowered her childcare costs by more than $800 a month, so now she's only paying the equivalent of $10 a day. She is thrilled to see that “government is investing in my child's future, and I am so happy that I can work for my family.”
The Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative is helping parents like Mark and Liana save $400 a month on their fees.
With two young children, our childcare costs were a significant part of our monthly budget,” said Mark. “This program has made a huge difference to our lives and has meant we can move into a home that better meets our family's needs. Without it, this would never have been possible.”
These stories are not unique. Many families have told us that the Affordable Child Care Benefit for low-income families and the non-income tested Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative are helping them put more towards healthy groceries, enrolling their kids in after-school activities like art and soccer, or setting some money aside for an emergency.
Some parents have described the savings as “life-changing” and have even called to check with ministry staff to make sure the calculations were correct. It is for these parents, and countless others throughout the province, that our government is making these investments.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report on living wages in BC. The writers of this report stated that “the cost of living for families with children is lower in 2019 thanks to the provincial government's new child care policies.”
In fact, the living wage needed by families in Metro Vancouver dropped to $19.50 an hour as a direct result of childcare savings for parents. Without these affordability programs, parents would need to make $22.47 an hour to make ends meet.
This impact is being felt around the province, with the report highlighting more than 10 other communities from Vancouver Island to the Interior that saw the living wage drop due to the steps we have taken to make childcare more affordable.
These investments in families are also investments in our communities. A 2017 Conference Board of Canada report found that every $1 spent on expanding early childhood education enrolment of children under the age of five yields close to $6 in economic benefits.
Hearing these stories of change and knowing there are still families struggling reminds me exactly why we are pushing for the biggest social policy change in BC's history. These changes will benefit families, the workforce and the economy.
We made a commitment to lower parent fees, create new spaces and support early childhood educators in BC. We know that there's more to do to reach that goal and we're committed to continuing to make life more affordable for families.
Katrina Chen is BC minister of state for child care.