It was not a surprise to read that the majority of residents in Lake Cowichan said they would like an early learning centre to be the partner in the construction of a new elementary school.
In Canada, more than 70 percent of mothers with very young children are in the workforce but there are only regulated child care spaces for about twenty percent of their children.
Using the 2006 census statistics, Social Planning Cowichan found that nearly 55 percent of female lone-parent families in Lake Cowichan lived with low income compared to seven percent of families led by a couple.
Affordable child care spaces would provide an opportunity for those women to work more hours and increase the income of their families.
Canada has one of the lowest levels of investment in early care and learning compared to other industrialized countries. And that is hurting our economy.
A study by social economists of Switzerland’s investment in early care found that where affordable child care was available, the rate of hours worked by mothers almost doubled.
That means better productivity, higher contributions to our tax system and less use of social assistance. And it means better outcomes for families.
Unfortunately, the federal government has no comprehensive policy on early childhood development supports even though it does provide funding through the Canada Social Transfer program, which pays for child care along with post-secondary education, social assistance and social services.
Even in areas of clear federal jurisdiction such as First Nation children living on-reserve, there is no plan to ensure these critical years in a child’s development are supported through planned investments.
I met recently with members of First Call BC, a youth and child care advocacy coalition of over 90 providers in the province.
Their main recommendation on early care was that governments should stop relying on the fees parents pay to fund child care services and stop counting on the private sector, whether non-profit or for-profit, to create spaces.
Instead, governments should take a leadership role in public planning, public funding and public reporting of early care.
I look forward to seeing what happens with the partnership for the new elementary school in Lake Cowichan. I know that residents have told governments exactly what they need to see this community thrive.