The childcare situation is dire in Victoria. Part of this issue is because there are no Early Childhood Educators available to hire. Unfortunately, this is due to working conditions for ECE’s that are often poor. We work long hours (many work 8-5). We are paid anywhere from $15-$20 per hour, health benefits are rare, and taking a day off is almost impossible because of the shortage of subs and staff. Another contributing factor is burn out due to the lack of respect for our position from society and parents. Not only do we spend our working hours caring for children, we spend countless hours of our evenings and weekends preparing materials, planning for challenging behaviors, and attending workshops to better our practices and keep our licenses. With the pay and conditions so lacking, it’s hard to entice others to join the field. Many ECE’s are trying to open their own centres in order to make this career path better for ourselves, but this presents its own challenges.
As you all know, I have been in the process of rezoning the James Bay Athletic Association building to include the use of daycare. There are no physical changes I am making. The only thing that will change is the addition of the sentence “for daycare use” on the covenant as well as the zoning restrictions. I have been trying to have this done since May 2018. The rezoning process involved so much, and I spent the entire summer working on obtaining all the correct documents to have my application complete. I had to draw my own floor plans (many, many times over) and measure and outline parking plans. I sat through meetings with urban planners, business license and permit city workers. I wrote letters and attended community meetings.
For more insight into the rezoning process, here is a link to an application form https://www.victoria.ca/assets/Departments/Planning~Development/Development~Services/Applications/Rezoning%20Application.pdf
I waited for weeks to hear back from my urban planner, and due to the election, our application was neglected. Finally our case was taken over by a new urban planner, and I was given the prediction that our rezoning would not be complete until late Spring 2019. This was devastating for us to hear. Then the covenant restriction was addressed, and I had to have my lawyer write up an amendment for the city to consider. Thankfully, after this we were notified that we would be scheduled in for the Committee of the Whole Meeting on November 15th.
When I attended the meeting all I felt was frustration. Instead of being passed through to the Public Hearing a city council member chose to question my business agreement with the James Bay Athletic Association. This was done with the intention of creating more affordability but unfortunately this member did not have knowledge about the Affordable Childcare Benefit Plan, how daycare licensing works, or what a fair price is for parents to pay for a Montessori childcare environment. He was attempting to restrict the covenant in a way that only allowed us to have our daycare if we were charged an incredibly low price for rent and then passed that money back to parents. The suggestion was for the JBAA to charge us only $1500 for rent, and split the remaining money we would have spent on rent ($1500) between parents. This would have meant a whopping $93.75 in savings each month. It is not the responsibility of a private non-profit organization to make affordability for parents, it is the responsibility of the provincial government. The JBAA is already graciously charging us well below market price. Thankfully, because of my good relationship with the JBAA, they were willing to push forward to support me as I addressed each issue in a second letter I was required to write to the Mayor and Council. I would have understood if the JBAA had pulled out of their lease agreement with me, as the amount of trouble this has caused has not been easy on anyone. In addition to the actual process of going through the rezoning, the amount of money we have poured into the city to achieve this has hindered our ability to stay afloat as a small business. For rezoning cases concerning childcare centres, I believe there should be a reduced fee in the interest of helping providers create spaces. If the city was really concerned with affordability, why not take that on themselves, and pass the savings on to parents by charging the childcare centres less in rezoning fees?
Ultimately, at the next Committee of the Whole Meeting on November 22nd, the city did pass our application through to the Public Hearing, and we are waiting to find out our date for that. The Public Hearing is an opportunity to voice your support for us. If you cannot attend, writing letters can help just as much. There is a woman who ran for council, Grace Lore, who is working on a petition for the city to make an action plan regarding childcare, as well as revisit rezoning requirements in order to open up more daycares. https://gracelore.ca/childcare-petition/
The government has promised changes in affordability, but these changes cannot happen if there are no spaces available. Working in the field of childcare right now is like an up-hill battle. There are people in the community who are fiercely advocating for change, and as someone who has now entered this world as an owner of a centre, I feel it is my responsibility to continue to be a strong voice in the BC Childcare conversation.
If you are also someone who wants to see great changes happen in the world of childcare, please contact me. Coming together and presenting ourselves professionally shows we take our positions seriously. The work we do is essential to society moving forward in a positive way.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”