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Affordable daycare needed in B.C., says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

07/09/2015 11:55 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
A subsidized, universal child care program in B.C. would help grow the province's economy, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, released on July 9, calculated the benefits and costs of introducing a $10-a-day child care program in B.C. 

It argued that a subsidized plan would help the economy by allowing more women to enter the work force or return to work after parental leave. It would also reduce welfare costs because some parents don't work due to the high cost of daycare.

Benefits to economy outweigh costs

All told, the benefits would grow the B.C. economy by about $3.9 billion per year, the report said.

The price tag for a $10-a-day plan would be $1.5 billion per year, 10 years after the program has been established, said Iglika Ivanova, a CCPA economist who wrote the report. 

The centre based its report on figures crunched by researchers at the University of B.C.'s Human Early Learning Partnership. It also looked at research conducted in Quebec, which launched a subsidized system in the late 1990s.

Ivanova conceded  that calls for affordable daycare in B.C. aren't new. Just last month, the Surrey Board of Trade made the case for it. But she said the provincial government has always countered that it can't afford a subsidized system.

That argument no longer holds up, she said, because the province presented a balanced budget this year.

"We can afford it," she said.

Daycare costs in B.C. among the highest in Canada

At the same time, many B.C. families are feeling squeezed by rising daycare costs, which are among the highest in Canada, ranging from about $40 to $70 a day.

"Child care costs more than a university degree, and comes earlier in people's lives when they don't make that much money," Ivanova said.

"They just can't do it."

Changes underway in Quebec

The CCPA's argument that a subsidized child care system will boost the economy was based in part on Quebec's experience. There, the number of single-parent families on welfare dropped and the federal and provincial governments saved millions on social assistance payments.

However, Quebec's program has undergone changes. Beginning next year, it will raise prices from the current $7-a-day rate and move to a sliding scale based on household income. Prices will be capped at $20 per day .

"It's not unreasonable to expect the $10-a-day child care plan in B.C. to produce similarly large economic benefits," said Ivanova.

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