This week the B.C. Liberals and the NDP laid out their platforms on how they would help mould and support the youngest minds in the province.
The Liberals are offering more of what they’ve been doing, which on the whole has been a boon to young kids and their parents, at least for the past few years.
Under the Liberals, the Ministry of Education has implemented full-day kindergarten, and introduced free StrongStart programs into schools for toddlers and parents, which are overseen by early learning educators.
Leading into the election, the Liberals are pledging $34 million more for existing Success by Six programs (threatened with deep cuts in 2010) and about $10 million per year for three years to encourage more licenced day care spaces.
The NDP is looking to reroute money promised by the Liberals for registered education plans, and direct it to families, about $70 per kid per month for the lowest income bracket. It also vowed $100 million to reduce child care costs by 20 per cent.
Despite committing plenty of cash for child care, neither party (nor the Greens or Conservatives) have dared to announce anything along the lines of universal child care.
Arguably, a B.C.-wide subsidized licenced child care program would be a natural continuation of publicly funded education happening now, such as StrongStart, Success by Six, full-day K and the Grade 1 to 12 system.
As opposed to topping up existing programs or giving relatively small amounts of cash to people with kids, creating truly affordable child care could make the greatest difference in the lives of working parents.
Child care subsidies already exist for low-income families, but a universal low-cost system could finally free parents from calculating if returning to the workforce after a maternity or paternity leave is worth the typically high monthly cost of child care.
The benefits of quality early childhood education are touted by educators across Canada. The federal government has abandoned any notion of creating universal child care. Our provincial leaders need to take on the challenge.