By Clare Ogilvie
Close to 100 parents and kids took part in an awareness walk to the village this week to draw attention to government funding cuts to day care.
“We are trying to raise awareness about the situation that is going on and how it will affect all these parents and children,” said Kari Gaudet, acting director of the Whistler Children’s Centre Tuesday.
The walk was part of a province-wide protest which saw scores of day cares around B.C. shut their doors for the day.
Parents and day-care workers are concerned about changes prompted by Ottawa’s decision to halt a $533 million childcare commitment to B.C. over the next three years. Instead the federal government began to offer parents a direct payment of $100 per child last July. Ottawa expects parents to use the taxable $100 benefit to offset the lack of subsidization.
According to the B.C. Minister of State for Child Care, Linda Reid, B.C. is maintaining its commitment but the change in federal funding means that as of July 1 child care operators will receive an average of $40 less per month per child.
It's also cutting funding to child-care resource and referral centres.
For the Whistler Children’s Centre the change translates into a loss of $3.76 per day, per child in the infant program and for 3-5 year-olds there will be a loss of $2 per child, per day, said Gaudet.
In all that means WCC will be $78,000 in the red annually.
The change, said Gaudet, is forcing the WCC to re-organize its programs, raise its fees and may impact staffing levels as well.
“I just think the point we need to get across is that it is not helping childcare,” she said.
“We strive so hard to have such a strong curriculum at our centre by modelling the High Scope curriculum. We have really changed the way we look at childcare, trying to offer the best and most educational program that we can and that adds a cost, and now if we have to look at upping costs again then it may be putting childcare at an unaffordable level for some families.”
Currently the families using the infant toddler program on a full time basis pay $1,025 per month. The three to five-year-olds program is $656 a month. There are 71 families on the WCC wait list with 53 of them hoping for spaces in the infant program, the only one if its kind in the Sea to Sky corridor.
Gaudet believes the change will add to the already heavy burden of affording to live or work in the resort.
While making the point that WCC fees are comparable to similar programs in Vancouver she said: “In Whistler 2020 they talk about us being able to support 75 per cent of the workforce in Whistler. Well we are not going to be able to support that if we are not able to offer the infant toddler care.”
Marching mom Janet Pashleigh said it is important that everyone understands how these cuts will impact daycare.
“We need to let everyone be aware that these cuts are huge,” she said. “The operating costs will be greatly affected.
“We are here to support the childcare system as far as the cuts that are going to be implemented shortly. It is going to affect the day care centre greatly and we just want to get the word out that it is not acceptable.”