The City of Vernon will investigate the possibility of building child care spaces on land it owns with money from Victoria.
Michelle Kirby of the Ministry of Children and Family gave council a presentation of the province’s Childcare BC vision — a 10-year plan to create universal childcare.
“We want affordable, quality child care that is available to every family that wants or needs it,” said Kirby, a former two-term councillor in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay.
The provincial budget has allocated $1 billion over three years toward the plan, with Ottawa chipping in $153 million over three years.
Kirby mentioned three specific programs where funding is available to municipalities:
• The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Community Child Care Space program. This offers local governments $1 million per child care facility, 100 per cent funded by UBCM, with the facility to be built on local government land.
“You have the land, we give you the funding to build the facility,” said Kirby, adding the city would be responsible for operating funds and fees that will make up the maintenance of the facility. “We know you need child care spaces. This is a great way to get spaces built.”
The program would be for kids from infant to age five. The application deadline for this grant is Jan. 18, 2019.
• The UBCM Community Child Care Planning Program is for local governments to create child care space creation action plans.
“This is the one this group is most interested in,” said Kirby. “If you don’t have a social planner or child care planner or anyone on staff who can do this kind of planning, we encourage you to apply for this UBCM grant.”
The grant is $25,000 with a deadline of Jan. 18, 2018.
• The Childcare BC New Spaces Fund has $221 million and no application deadline.
“It’s unprecedented 100 per cent provincial funding that’s now available,” said Kirby. “There’s up to $1 million per facility for public sector applicants. The application process is open continuously.”
Mayor Victor Cumming said the focus should be on the $25,000 grant for a local assessment, which he called a “critical piece of data.”
“We have agencies that can do that research, and also assess possible locations,” said Cumming.
Coun. Scott Anderson, the interim B.C. Conservative Party leader, expressed concerns the city would be on the hook for funds should the government change after the next election.
“I’m concerned we’ll be stuck with a white elephant,” he said.
Council unanimously voted to direct staff to review the programs with the three grant options, the province’s asked for a 15-year commitment from the city to the program and potential sites and assets the city may have for child care facilities (Coun. Dalvir Nahal was absent from the meeting).
The report is expected at the first regular council meeting in 2019, on Jan. 7.