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United they stand for child care

Pouring into Gibsons Heritage Playhouse Monday were mothers, fathers and child care providers, all outraged at the provincial government's new legislation surrounding child care in this province. On Jan.

Pouring into Gibsons Heritage Playhouse Monday were mothers, fathers and child care providers, all outraged at the provincial government's new legislation surrounding child care in this province.

On Jan. 5, Linda Reid, Minister of State for child care, announced funding cuts to child care programs in B.C. that will be effective as of April 1, 2007.

With the proposed cuts, the Sunshine Coast Child Care Resource and Referral programs (CCRR) will be forced to close their doors, leaving many day care providers without a support system.

"Last year, CCRRs in B.C. received $5 million from federal funds to enhance services, adding to the existing $9 million in provincial funding. But after the federal election, the five-year funding agreement was cancelled, therefore cutting the federal $5 million contribution. But what is shocking is that the province has now decided to cut its $9 million funding by $6 million, leaving only $3 million for all B.C. CCRRs," Vicki Dobbyn, executive director of the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society, said in a press release.

The CCRR office in Gibsons will be closing their doors as of April 1, and offices in Sechelt and Madeira Park will also be shutting down effective Sept. 31.

With the new funding guidelines, child care operating funding (CCOF) rates will return to the amounts the province allotted prior to the federal child care agreements. The CCOF, a grant for child care providers, was designed to promote a stable supply of affordable child care spaces. The average rate reduction will be about $2 per day per enrolled child, or about $40 per month per child.

"The cutbacks to the child care operating funds will mean daycares will lose their extra funding, meaning that the parents are going to have to absorb those costs," explained Jan Miettinen-Hart, Sunshine Coast CCRR co-ordinator. "We will be losing community-based programs that provide direct services to child care providers and community members; these cuts will be increasing daycare fees."

In a letter addressed to the child care community, Reid outlined the reasoning for the recent cuts.

"Funding levels for the CCRR will be maintained through the end of the current fiscal year. But again, as a result of the cancellations of the early learning and child care (ELCC) agreement, as of April 1, 2007, the budget for this program will revert to pre-ELCC levels and subsequently will be reduced further in order for the province to sustain the investments that support vulnerable children and families. We will engage in a process of further transition with CCRRs and develop alternative ways of providing services," Reid wrote.

The purpose of the rally, moderated by Dianne Evans, was to encourage members of the public and child care providers to write letters showing their discontent with the funding cuts.

"I really do believe that if everyone who came out tonight writes a letter to their MLA and the provincial government, they will have to listen to our concerns," Dobbyn said. "I'm just bewildered. With all the research the government has funded that showed how important child care is to development, these funding cuts make no sense."

Within almost a year of the Conservative government being elected into office, with a platform of creating 125,000 more child care spaces nationally, the funding cuts, which will decrease the amount of spaces and increase the costs of child care, come as a shock to members of the child care community.

"Until Ottawa provides details on how it intends to fund this initiative (125,000 new child care spaces), provincial major capital funding will not be made available," Reid wrote.

With the already long waitlists for child care on the Sunshine Coast and in the rest of B.C. and expected waits to only increase, issues surrounding new mothers returning to work and finding the support they need are being raised.

"We use all the programs the CCRR provides, like parents and tots among others. I'm not too sure if I will be returning to work, but this is definitely going to affect my decision," explained Mandi Geisler, mother of four-month-old Jasper.

"We see many mothers who are seeing their maternity leave coming to an end, and they are desperate. We have to put them on waitlists; some places have an 18-month waitlist. We are already in a child care crisis, and these cuts are only going to make it worse," Dobbyn added.

Members of the community who wish to contribute to the CCRRs efforts can contact their offices in Gibsons, Sechelt and Madeira Park, or visit their website at