Mid-Vancouver Island childcare action plan recommends local government actions

·2 min read

A 192-page report on childcare planning within the Regional District of Nanaimo makes recommendations on increasing accessibility, improving affordability, quality of care and strengthening partnerships in the region.

Paid for through a grant from the Union of BC Municipalities, consultants hired by the RDN, including the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), began researching the childcare situation in the regional district in 2019.

The Mid-Island Region Childcare Action Plan includes 32 recommendations for the RDN and the four member municipalities and outlines targets for how many childcare spaces the region should have by 2030: 50 spaces for every 100 children under 3 years, 75 spaces for every 100 children 3-5 years not in school and 50 spaces for every 100 children under 10 years in school. Currently in the RDN there are nine, 39 and 24 spaces for each respective age group and 82 per cent of childcare programs have waitlists, the report says. The region would need a further 4,872 by 2030 to meet the target coverage. The consultants recommend that about 32 per cent of those new spaces should go to electoral areas. Electoral Areas A, B and C specifically would need 443 new spaces within the next 10 years, the report says. There are currently 48 in development in the three areas.

The targets are “aspirational,” the accompanying RDN staff report says, and notes there are no federal or provincial standards or recommendations for the number of childcare spaces per capita. Targets are based on best practices in the European Union and Quebec, it notes.

Among the local government recommendations outlined in the action plan are removing barriers in RDN bylaws and processes to develop childcare spaces such as reducing permit application fees, regional coordination with stakeholders and leasing existing government-owned facilities, land or buildings for childcare such as leasing to not-for-profit providers at no cost or at below market rates. Currently, the RDN does not operate any childcare facilities or lease RDN-owned land or buildings for childcare.

Area B Director Vanessa Craig said the action plan provides a “very good baseline” to start from. “It’s not committing us [the RDN], that we’re going to create these spaces. The most important part is that it’s part of the social needs assessment and strategy,” a regional partnership underway that is examining how to improve social supports.

The committee of the whole passed motions to endorse the recommended 2030 childcare space targets, to considered the action plan as part of the social needs assessment and strategy and the land-use bylaw review and that childcare be considered as an option during development of a community amenity contribution policy. The motions will go to the board of directors on March 23 for final approval.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder