The City of Terrace is concerned their $25,000 grant from the province to develop an action plan that identifies gaps in child care spaces is shifting the responsibility of childcare onto local governments.
“We will be hiring a consultant to complete the research necessary for the inventory,” says a city spokesperson. “The city recognizes that childcare is important in our community and we will be assessing how our municipality can help to address gaps, keeping in mind our jurisdiction and mandate as a local government.”
Though in a draft resolution to the Northern Central Local Government Association (NCLGA), the city argues the provincial government should establish a universal plan for childcare facilities without depending on municipalities to create and run them.
“Local governments do not have the capacity or mandate to provide childcare. Like health services and education, childcare delivery is a provincial responsibility,” the draft reads.
In 2018, the province announced the $3 million Community Child Care Space Creation Program and the Community Child Care Planning Grant, established for local governments to assess the childcare spaces in their community and plan for additional spaces.
The province has partnered with the Union of BC Municipalities to work with local governments to assess individual community needs, with additional funding available in the future with the goal of creating 1,370 new child care spaces across B.C. Terrace is one of 70 communities to receive up to $25,000.
“We can’t solve the child care shortage on our own. Municipalities know the needs of families in their communities, and this insight will make sure that child care investments are strategic and new spaces are created where they are most needed,” said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care in a press release.
Coun. Sean Bujtas says council believes this is another example of the province “downloading” responsibilities onto municipalities.
Downloading can be defined as a range of ways the province and federal governments pass administrative costs and other expenses to local levels of government without adequate funding.
“When you look at all these things being offered by the province, they’re offering you incentives when they should be doing this themselves,” he says. “To us, it felt like downloading again. This is work the province should be doing, it’s their mandate, not ours.”
Moreover, the grant application and reporting process can be a draw on staff time and resources.
“The [grant applications] don’t take five minutes to fill out,” Bujtas says.
UBCM president Arjun Singh says communities often raise concerns about downloading when it comes to provincial grant money, however, he sees this initiative as more of a partnership than a transfer of responsibility.
“The resolution from Terrace is a good one in terms of making sure it’s not a question of [whether] we get downloaded on, but it’s a question of us working together with both the provincial and federal governments,” Singh says.
Though it is up to each individual community to decide how involved they want to be in the program.
“There’s no requirement that local governments to get involved with the provision.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Children and Family Development says the goal of the grants is to build a collaboration so local governments, working with school districts, local health authorities and other stakeholders, can inform the province on the community’s childcare needs.
“This is not about downloading provincial responsibilities on to municipalities. It’s about combining local strengths and intel in order to improve the child care system for all B.C. families,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard.
The province’s $13.7-million Community Child Care Space Creation Program will also provide local governments with up to $1 million and support the creation of new licensed childcare spaces, with a focus on infant and toddler care.
“Then once they have a good sense of their long-term needs, local governments, their partners and child care providers in their communities can apply for other funding from the province to help them build new facilities or expand existing facilities that will meet those needs.”
Minister Katrina Chen says gathering data from individual communities is the first step to the government’s Child Care BC plan.
When it comes to whether the delivery of these spaces should be a provincial, not municipal, responsibility, Chen says there are different ways of operating and building these new facilities.
“We’re very flexible. The purpose of our new spaces funding is to provide the grants to create new spaces that could be owned by the city, by the school district or by the provider,” Chen says. “We don’t really interfere with its operation, it’s up to the municipality to decide how they want to utilize those spaces.”
Terrace’s resolution still needs to be finalized before it’s presented to the NCLGA conference in Williams Lake from May 7 – 10.