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Council votes to 'incentivize' 24-hour childcare in Vancouver

Last Updated Feb 18, 2021 at 11:33 pm PDT

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Summary

The first provincially-funded, 24-hour childcare centre was announced last September, is set to open in 2022 in Kitimat

City council has unanimously passed a motion to 'incentivize' childcare centres to operate beyond regular business hours

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver city council has approved a motion to have the city consider offering up incentives for childcare centres to operate around the clock and on weekends.

Coun. Melissa DeGenova’s motion passed unanimously Thursday. The first provincially-funded, 24-hour childcare centre was announced last September, and is set to open in 2022 in Kitimat.

De Genova wants the city to do whatever is in its power to make it easier — and more enticing — to operate extended hours centres in Vancouver.

“It’s something I’ve advocated for since before I was mother,” she says.

“With childcare being one of council’s top priorities, I thought that it was appropriate to bring forward a motion to address some of the needs that I’ve been hearing from Vancouver families over my two terms on council,” she says.

According to DeGenova, constituents have told her trying to find safe, adequate, and affordable childcare is a challenge for a lot of single parents and essential workers. The limited options available mean parents face lengthy waitlists, and have few options other than hiring a nanny or relying on family.

“It certainly has a big impact on affordability and livability in our city,” she says.

She points out there are no specific zoning requirements that prevent 24-hour childcare centres from opening up right now, but there is a lack of suitable space and an onerous licensing process.

“I think that it’s really important that we focus on what our mandate is, as a city, looking at zoning and development and making sure that we cut that red tape and that we incentivize it just as we do rental housing.”

Three licenses are required to open a centre — one from the province, one from the city, and one from Vancouver Coastal Health. De Genova doesn’t want to do away with any of these licensing requirements, but she thinks there’s a way to streamline the process.

“If anything goes wrong in those three licensing processes, we’ve seen waits of over a year or two years even for childcare centres where operators are waiting to open their centres,” she says.

“Is there a way the City of Vancouver can bring those together and make them more efficient, and make sure that we are, in fact, increasing the amount of childcare that’s offered and meeting the needs of Vancouver families? And that includes our workforce.”

RELATED: Vancouver city councillor proposes around-the-clock childcare for families

The motion also directs the city to ask the province to pitch in and fund these spaces.

“Aside from just looking at childcare and enabling operators, incentivizing builders to make sure that this happens, it’s so important that we also look at the cost and the affordability,” she says.

“We’re seeing families just driven out of the city of Vancouver because the cost of childcare can often be more than the cost of housing. I’ve heard from nurses, I’ve heard from grocery store clerks, I’ve heard from single parents who have said that the cost of childcare is exorbitant for them and their families — and that’s if they can find good, reliable childcare.”

She notes other Canadian cities in Ontario and Quebec have childcare centres  open 24 hours. When a 24-hour childcare centre opened in Barrie, Ontario several years ago, demand was so high, there were 800 children on the waitlist.

“I think that it’s really important that we look to other cities in BC and Canada wide that are already doing that, and don’t reinvent the wheel, we see what they’re doing, and also how we can incorporate this into what’s already being done.”