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Government poised to restore funds

Linda Reid, Minister of State for Childcare, announced on Tuesday she is reversing her decision to cut the child care resource and referral (CCRR) budget.

Linda Reid, Minister of State for Childcare, announced on Tuesday she is reversing her decision to cut the child care resource and referral (CCRR) budget. In a letter sent out to CCRR centres on Tuesday, the Liberal government confirmed they are reversing Reid's decision to cut the CCRR budget and that the $9 million provincial CCRR budget will be maintained on an ongoing basis. "In April we are going back to the $9 million budget. We are now confirming we will maintain the program on a go-forward basis: we will carry this program this year, next year and the year after," Reid told Coast Reporter in an interview Thursday morning.

Reid's decision comes six weeks after the government informed childcare providers that their budget was going to be reduced from $14 million to $3 million, causing an uproar from the childcare community.

At that time, CCRR centres throughout the province, including centres in Gibsons and Sechelt, started preparing for the worst.

A rally was held in Gibsons in late January to protest the then-planned cuts. "Many child care resource and referral centres have already been forced to start sending out lay-off notices, and this most recent development has created confusion amongst childcare providers and parents," said NDP MLA and opposition critic for child care Claire Trevena in a press release this week.

Since the crisis became public, Coast Reporter has been flooded with letters protesting the cuts.

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons has also received many letters outlining the public's outrage with the government's decision. Simons has been lobbying the Liberals to reverse the decision.

A call by Coast Reporter to Simons for comment was not returned by deadline Thursday afternoon.

"Thanks to continued public pressure, this government appears to be backing down from their threat to force the closure of child care resource and referral centres. I congratulate childcare advocates for this, won through perseverance," Trevena added.

Jan Miettinen-Hart from Sechelt's CCRR said she didn't believe it when she first read the letter and had to double-check the letterhead.

"Kudos to the coalition of childcare advocates for giving us a voice and not giving up; they couldn't ignore us this time," Miettinen-Hart said.

As for how the Minister's decision will affect the Coast, Miettinen-Hart says she will have to wait and see what the government does next. "It's great that it's gone back to the $9 million funding, but I'm not sure how this will affect us on the Coast," she said. Childcare providers, although excited, are embracing the announcement with caution, according to Trevena. "This government does not have a comprehensive plan for provincial childcare. And we have no reason to believe that this most recent flip-flop will repair the chaos caused by this government's mismanagement of the childcare system," Trevena said.

According to Reid, the government will soon be contacting local CCRR centres to discuss details.

"We will be in touch with regions in terms of what their regional budget is in the next couple of weeks, for sure," Reid said.