BC Election: Three hard questions — child care

The Northern View asks the North Coast candidates on their policy for the region.

Should the provincial government be responsible for paying for child care and if so how will it be paid for?

Herb Pond, BC Liberal Party

Sandy and I raised four children in Prince Rupert, far away from family support. We’ve lived it. We also chose to raise our family on the North Coast because of many advantages — including more time for family. I believe that the best decisions are made by parents, not government.

The focus should continue to be on creating more child care spaces to give parents better choices — including 24-hour care for families with shift workers.

My goal as MLA will be to ensure that the North Coast receives its fair share so there are enough child care spaces, no waitlists, and high quality supports for our child care workers to provide the best possible outcomes for our kids.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

The Green Party feels very strongly that we need to direct more resources toward child care services. It is the right thing to do, and it is a sensible thing to do. Free child care allows parents to enter the workforce, earn more, continue their careers, and ultimately pay more in taxes (helping society at large).

In our current situation we see people, who want to work, deciding not to simply because child care costs would eat up so much of their wages (or, in some cases, all of their wages) that it just isn’t worth it.

A Green Party government would bring in free child-care for every British Columbian up to age three, and provide free ECE (Early Childhood Education) for those aged three and four.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

Yes. Quality, affordable child care will help parents get back to work, strengthen our economy and improve the lives of BC families.

Recent economic studies conclude that affordable, accessible child care generates significant economic activity.

Our $10/day plan is costed and shows some of the investment will be returned to government through taxes paid by more parents re-entering the work force.

We will partly fund the program by re-instating a tax the Liberals recently ended on top income-earners. The program will pay for itself in just a few years.

All children, including those needing extra support to meet their needs, will be welcome.

Licensed family homes and centres will continue to offer a range of programs that reflect the diversity of BC communities.

The quality of the system depends on Early Childhood Educators. We will invest in a well-educated, respected and fairly-compensated workforce.

How early should children be put into kindergarten and why?

Herb Pond, BC Liberal Party

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pre-school or kindergarten programming. It should be parents’ choice when their child attends pre-school or kindergarten.

I’m a fan of the StrongStart BC programs that support early learning. As I have in the past, I’ll support other community organizations such as Success by 6 to help prepare children for school.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

Personally I feel like kindergarten should be treated the way it was originally conceived. Kindergarten began with the idea that children should have a place to transition to school life in a pleasant way.

The main reason why children (kinder) are there is to learn that school can be a fun place to be where there is plenty of chance to socialize and play. In recent years we have increasingly tried to “improve” our education system and get our students to “catch-up” and have put more content into the kindergarten curriculum to achieve these goals.

Most of B.C. now has full-day kindergarten with much stronger educational goals than we used to. This may result in some students learning more at age five, but it also results in a lot of students very quickly learning that school is a frustrating high-pressure place and, in my opinion, these negative feelings will outweigh the benefits of a more academic kindergarten in the long run.

So, I personally prefer a half-day kindergarten starting at age five that is structured more like a day/play camp than a traditional educational setting.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

In B.C., parents can register their children in full day kindergarten in September of the year they turn five years old. In some parts of BC there aren’t enough kindergarten spaces for five year olds due to years of underfunding of the education system by Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government.

It took a Supreme Court of Canada decision to force the BC Liberal government to restore the cuts and start getting enough teachers back into our classrooms.

Regardless of the age students start kindergarten all children should have access to good affordable childcare before that. The BC NDP is committed to improving access and affordability of childcare so that parents have the option available to go to work and have qualified early childhood educators working with their children during the day.

There has been a lot of criticism on the lack of support for delegated aboriginal agencies resulting in high numbers of aboriginal children taken into foster care.

How would your party address this issue?

Herb Pond, BC Liberals

An elders group recently shared heart-wrenching stories with me about their own experiences. They had no doubt that systems regularly discriminated against them.

Here’s what they asked of me: ‘Work harder on healing the family. And where children are at risk, work harder at keeping them closer to their cultural and familiar roots — extended family, community, nation.’ We can learn so much by listening.

All children deserve a bright future and we all share responsibility in opening opportunities for them to lead healthy, happy lives. I want to be a part of the working group that is focused on addressing policy, programs, and legislative frameworks related to children and families.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

In this situation I feel like we need to deal with the larger problems. We have had many changes in agencies and policies over the years but we continue to have a situation where aboriginal children are far more likely to end up in foster care than others.

The reason why so many children end up in foster care is simply the result of poverty. Regardless of whether you are looking at aboriginal or non-aboriginal populations, anyone who is living in poverty is much more prone to be faced with a range of social problems.

We need to provide economic opportunity and help to those who most need it. This isn’t easy and doesn’t just “happen” because a major new LNG project comes to town. In particular, we need to provide a range of services including free adult education, better support for public housing, a well-funded bus service, accessible counselling, and support for those dealing with drug addictions.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

The BC NDP will ensure Delegated Aboriginal Agencies are supported to offer services at the same level offered to non-aboriginal children. Bernard Richard, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, released a report in March which says that both federal and provincial funding for delegated aboriginal agencies is “flawed and discriminatory” and “confusing and inconsistent.”

Aboriginal agencies have a tough time retaining staff, due to inadequate funding. They cannot offer the same training and benefits that government workers receive.

A disproportionate number of children in care are of indigenous ancestry — more than 65 per cent. When aboriginal children do enter care, we will ensure that basic care standards are met, and that there is a plan for every child to connect them with their culture and their communities.

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