In the wake of council granting $78,000 in emergency funding to the Whistler Children’s Centre last year, the municipality has spearheaded a series of talks with childcare providers in the corridor.
“The intent was to see where there was common challenges that these organizations had and where we might find solutions,” said John McCormick, who is part of the childcare working group.
“It’s a central community issue. It’s the kind of thing that certainly has implications for Whistler 2020 and has implications for 2010 (during the Olympic Games). If we want to have a community that’s sustainable we need to address things like childcare.”
Over the last several months, a number of groups in the corridor have been meeting for talks, including the Whistler Children’s Centre, the Teddy Bear Day Care at Millennium Place, Whistler-Blackcomb, the municipality and childcare providers in Pemberton and Squamish.
A number of issues have come to light, not the least of which is the problem around staffing.
“The major challenge is recruiting and retaining staff,” said Roger Weetman, the municipality’s manager of recreation services.
The municipality runs licensed children’s programs such as Kids on the Go, which is why Weetman is at the table.
The staffing issue, he added, is not a unique Whistler challenge. It’s seen sector-wide across the province due in no small part to that fact that the industry standard for payment is in the range of $15 per hour or less.
Kelly Foran, manager of care at the Teddy Bear Day Care, agreed staffing was one of the main issues. Discussions among providers have touched on the matter of compensation and whether or not they should all offer the same rates.
The Teddy Bear Day Care, which is run through Millennium Place, has 16 spots for two and half year olds to school age kids. They are open six days a week and full every day with the exception of Saturday.
Another reason for the daycare providers to come together now is to discuss issues surrounding the 2010 Games. The Howe Sound School District decided to close the elementary schools for one week during the Games.
“We’re less than two years out now,” said Weetman. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Now that discussions are underway, the key players are hoping to find solutions to ongoing problems and the specific issue of meeting demands in 2010.
“These are really great conversations we’re having among the community providers who are really terrific and really open to trying to figure out solutions,” said McCormick.
“The intent of it is that we raise the level of childcare in Whistler.”
Last year the federal government cancelled the 2005 Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, representing a loss of $455 million over three years to daycare facilities in B.C.
Instead, parents now receive $100 per child per month through a Universal Child Benefit.