Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness says the provincial government has failed to create more than 90 per cent of child care spaces the NDP promised in the party’s three-year plan.
With 2,055 new spaces operational out of 22,000 promised as of this year, Throness, who is the BC Liberal Critic for Children and Family Development, blames the premier directly.
“The NDP always overpromise and underdeliver,” Throness said in a BC Liberal caucus press release from Nov. 12. “John Horgan is failing miserably to meet the targets he set and, at this rate, it would take the NDP over seven years to make good on their promise.”
But when asked to comment on Throness’s claims, Minister Katrina Chen told The Progress that her government is dedicated to making inclusive universal child care a reality in B.C.
“For too long, child care was too unaffordable and inaccessible for families,” Chen said in an emailed statement. “Unlike the old government, we’ve been focused on fixing that.”
Chen pointed to data that showed the government funded 4,707 spaces in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, and 5,851 in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, a total of 10,558 out of the 22,000 promised.
“The critic knows the claims he’s making aren’t accurate,” Chen said. “It took the old government four years to fund 4,312 new spaces. We funded that many in less than a year.”
But while the government’s data show, indeed, that more than 10,000 have been funded, numbers dug up by Throness and even those provided by the Ministry show that just 2,055 are operational.
When shown a chart of data provided to The Progress by Minister Chen’s office, Throness said it proved his point.
“The chart you included is an admission of failure,” he said. “The chart provided by the government shows that the government created just 374 operating spaces in the nine months so far this fiscal year (unbelievable when you consider they are spending over $330 million per year on child care for three years). Moreover, this is a dramatic fall from 1,681 operational spaces created the year before, when the program should be ramping up year over year.”
Minister Chen, however, insisted in the Legislature on Tuesday that the number of spaces funded, more than 10,000, is the important one and that the BC Liberal government funded just 4,000 in four years.
“Families in B.C. are struggling with the shortage of child care spaces,” Chen said in question period on Nov. 26. “Early childhood educators are struggling with the lack of support. What did the critic for child care say? When he talked about early childhood educators, he said: ‘We might as well invest in software and machines.’
“Well, we’re investing in people in this province. We have put together a comprehensive plan to lower child care fees for the first time in B.C.’s history. Living wages going down because child care fees are going down.”
Throness suggested the NDP government is announcing “fake spaces” and that with just nine per cent out of the 22,000 promised, the government is failing.
“Will the minister today make the following more forthright announcement: ‘My program has collapsed. I’ve been announcing fake spaces, not making spaces. I’m 90 per cent short on my promise to parents, and I’m sorry to them?’” Throness asked in question period. “Will the minister announce that today?”
Chen insists that her government is making progress and doing more than the BC Liberals did while they were in power.
“Fixing the problems created by the old government won’t happen overnight, but we’re making progress. In fact, we estimate that around 1,600 more spaces will be open for parents in the next six months. We will keep working hard to make child care more affordable and accessible for families.”
Throness insists that Chen’s reliance on funded spaces rather than operational is an effort to mislead the public.