Conroy’s granddaughter Sayge Jones was at the daycare when grandma came to present the official acceptance letter to the staff. The selection process was independent, and Conroy says she didn’t know which centres were selected for the program until the process was concluded. (Photo: John Boivin)

Castlegar daycare selected for universal childcare pilot program

MLA Katrine Conroy presents letter of acceptance to the program to the Children’s Centre at Selkirk College

The head of a family services agency that runs two daycares in Castlegar says the government’s new $10-a-day childcare funding policy could mean more spaces opening up in the city.

“This model will encourage us to expand,” says Jim Fisher, the executive director of Kootenay Family Place. “It was a bad business model before. You can’t break even.”

The new model Fisher is talking about was announced last week by the provincial government. The Childcare BC Universal Prototype Sites will see selected daycares receive subsidies to provide daycare for $10 a day, or less, for a family. The Children’s Centre at Selkirk College is one of 53 daycares taking part in the pilot project, whose aim is to bring universal daycare to British Columbia.

SEE: $53 B.C. daycares move to $10-a-day pilot

“We have 57 spaces here, so it has a large impact,” says Fisher. “Historically, we’ve relied on enrollment for operating, but if that goes down we lose money.

“This [daycare] has been a historical deficit for our non-profit society,” he says, noting they cover those losses with applications for grants and other fundraising. “We bail it out, but we’re anticipating this year to not be in deficit for the first time.”

The minister for Children and Family Development was in Castlegar Tuesday to present the official letter of acceptance to the program to the Children’s Centre.

“This makes childcare affordable, accessible, and it makes life so much easier for so many families,” said Katrine Conroy, who’s also the region’s MLA. “We’re moving towards universal child care, which is our government’s goal. It’s a 10-year plan and we are in year two. We’ve already made child care affordable for so many families.”

Conroy says the Children’s Centre had to pass through a stringent, independent process to be selected as one of the test sites.

“It was a totally independent process, I didn’t even know who was on the final list until a month ago,” she said. “And we weren’t allowed to say anything.”

Keeping quiet was made harder by the fact Conroy’s own grandchild attends the daycare, she said.

In all, parents of around 2,500 children will benefit from the prototype sites, which are being offered throughout the province.

“It’s pretty incredible. I’ve talked to some parents, they are calling us in tears, saying they can’t believe this is happening,” she says.

The project is funded through a $60-million investment as part of the province’s Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the federal government.

For parents at daycares not selected for the pilot project, there’s still support, says Conroy.

Parents may still be eligible for support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per child a month for families with an annual income of $111,000 or less. Families using licensed child care may also see savings through the Child Care Fee Reduction, which has so far helped to reduce the cost of almost 52,000 child care spaces around the province.

Conroy called it one of the largest social programs ever undertaken by the province.

Jim Fisher just calls it a great initiative.

“I think it is massive. I think it is going to have a big impact on people’s ability to work,” he says. “If you look at Quebec, as one place that’s had an affordable plan, before they started they had the lowest level of female post-seconary graduates.

“Now they have the highest in Canada.”

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