Stephanie Cadieux, MLA and Minister of Children and Family Development, was in Castlegar on Wednesday, Sept. 4, part of a regional tour to become better acquainted with local issues.
“I’m up touring the Kootenays and visiting with my MCFD offices and staff. I’m talking with them about their work, challenges, opportunities and some of the great things they have been able to accomplish up in the Kootenays,” said Cadieux before sitting down with children during storytime at Kootenay Family Place. “We’re here to meet with some of the community groups that contract to the ministry for things like the daycare here.”
Cadieux said the early years strategy that the government has is one that tries to acknowledge and plan for making family life more affordable for families.
Part of that plan involves the creation of 13,000 new childcare spaces in areas of need throughout B.C.
“We recognize there is large need in some areas and across the province,” she said. “Over the next three years we’re investing $76 million; about $7 million is on coordination. We want to take what we’ve got in really good existing programs.”
Cadieux said they want to create one-stop hubs for families that are tailored to individual communities based on what already exists. Cadieux said she was impressed with the co-ordination between various agencies in the communities in the Kootenays.
“I’m absolutely not looking at cuts,” said Cadieux. “We are a demand ministry and the services we provide are to some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable families and children. What I’m here to do is have an opportunity to meet with some of my staff in the area that are providing services, hear from them about what it’s like to provide services and the challenges in this area that are different from other urban areas.”
In response to a media question, Cadieux added that $32 million will be spent over the next three years to build 2,000 new childcare spaces in the province. She acknowledged the difficulties with the provincial budget but felt that her ministry was one that was being given appropriate priority.
Prior to the arrival of Cadieux, Jim Fisher, executive director of Kootenay Place, said they are constantly searching for new grants in order to stay in the black and keep fees for their services low. They have 24 childcare spaces at Kootenay Place and another 22 at Selkirk College.
“We are loathe to raise fees,” said Fisher. “Kootenay Family Place has been running for 41 years and it’s one of the oldest facilities like this in the province.”
Cadieux said she’s aware of the difficulties in providing childcare for many families.
“The only way, as a province that we can do more, is when we grow the economy and make sure that people have well-paying jobs in their communities of choice.”