It's a relief funding for the CAP sites isn't ending now, but what happens after 2010?
Islanders who thought they were losing their Community Access Program sites because of federal funding cuts must have felt they were waking up from an unpleasant dream this week. According to federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, it won't happen after all, and the initial news that the CAP sites were getting the axe was simply the result of poor communication.
We can all rest easy, if the latest word from Ottawa is to be believed. For one thing, it spares the 10 full-time jobs associated with the operation of the Island's 38 CAP sites, as well as the 52 students who work part-time. For another, the cuts would have specifically hurt rural areas where many depend on the services at these sites, especially access to computer and Internet for those who aren't connected themselves. How many would that have affected? In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, more than 84,000 logged on at a CAP site in the province. While many of these may have been repeat users, the relevant point here is that the services are well used, and are obviously filling a need.
No wonder reaction was negative when word came earlier this week that the CAP sites would be closed because of new arrangements in federal funding. Workers themselves spoke out, the opposition and some senators all spoke up for the need to retain the sites – only to be told the next day by Mr. Clement himself that the sites would remain open, that funding was never in jeopardy, and that it would continue throughout 2010. The reason for the confusion, he explained in an interview with The Guardian, is that there's been a change in funding arrangements, and that all the information about the funding changes wasn't communicated. The bottom line, he stressed, is that the sites will continue to be funded throughout 2010.
But what will happen after that? The minister wouldn't say. And Islanders should take note of that. Obviously it's a relief that the sites have been spared – for this year. But what about subsequent years? The fact that the minister seems noncommittal about their future is reason to remain vigilant. And while the minister attributes the recent confusion to poor communication, it was communication that seemed to be shared by a lot of people who should have been in the know – senior officials in Egmont MP Gail Shea's office, senators and Opposition MPs. Poor communication obviously travels fast.
Not surprisingly, opposition MPs insist that government's initial intention was to cut the services, and that it pulled back in the face of negative reaction.
Whether that's the case or not, the fact is, the minister has been unable to guarantee the program will continue past 2010. Islanders should consider this incident a heads-up not to become complacent. They should make their feelings known to their MPs and send the message to Ottawa that cutting the sites would have a dramatic impact on rural Prince Edward Island.
The sites are invaluable to people who don't have computer or Internet access at home. Students use them. So do people looking for employment. Closing these sites would be a regressive move by any government. The $595,000 the federal government contributes to the program is a worthwhile investment. Between now and the end of 2010, the province should make a point of persuading Ottawa of this and work to ensure that the CAP sites remain open.
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From Whistler Question – March 5, 2009
Whistler – Parents in Whistler will
soon have even fewer child care choices with the Teddy Bear Daycare set
to close at the end of May to make way for arts, culture and Olympic
The closure was discussed in the B.C. Legislature’s Question Period
this week, with the NDP opposition critic for child care, Vancouver
Island MLA Claire Trevena, asking the Minister of State for Child Care,
Linda Reid, if the loss of daycare spaces is her Olympic legacy for
working families in Whistler.
Insert – Here are is the transcript from the above noted discussion
The Teddy Bear Daycare in Whistler is closing at the end of May, and
the operators have told parents in a letter that it's because "the day
care space will not be available during the 2010 Olympic period."
Last spring when
the issue of child care in Whistler was raised in this House, the
minister of state advised parents to go to another centre, which is
about 20 kilometres away. I'd like to advise the minister that that
centre is closing, and the centre in Whistler is closing, and there is
nothing available for parents in Whistler or the surrounding areas.
I'd like to ask if the
minister of state can give some advice to working parents in Whistler
on what they should do about their child care.
Hon. L. Reid:
I thank the member opposite for her question. This government continues
to oversee the largest child care budget ever — an enormous sum of
money. We continue to work with the individuals in Whistler, and I, in
fact, have visited there many times in terms of addressing the
recruitment issues, the retention issues, the real estate issues.
We'll continue to
work with them, because our challenge is to continue to provide day
care services across British Columbia, and they continue to be in
regular contact with our offices.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
To the minister of state. I'm very intrigued that she's carrying on
talking to the various communities in Whistler, because since she
started talking we've lost 46 spaces in the community, and we don't
actually have any space for parents who are looking for child care.
The operators of the Teddy Bear Daycare are a major company. They're Whistler Blackcomb, which is part of the Intrawest group, and that company recognizes that child care is important for the community and for a successful business.
the letter to parents which was informing them of the closure, it
actually says: "We realize that quality child care is essential to the
success of the community." Whistler Blackcomb recognizes it. B.C.
Chamber of Commerce recognizes it. The board of trade recognizes it.
But seriously, I think the minister is paying lip service to it.
I'd like to ask the
minister: if the Olympics is supposed to attract people to British
Columbia, what message is being given to families? The fact that these
child care spaces are closing as we approach the Olympics — is this the
minister's legacy for the Olympics, for the working families in
Hon. L. Reid:
Absolutely, this government understands the importance of building
child care space, which is why we've built 6,000 new child care spaces
across British Columbia. We have invested $34 million in capital
construction, and we continue to provide subsidies to 90,000 licensed
child care spaces. That is double what it was when we came to
Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has a contract to operate the Village
daycare, located in Millennium Place, until the end of June but has
decided to close it one month early. Otto Kamstra, general manager of
WB’s Ski and Snowboard School, which runs Teddy Bear, said with parents
knowing the centre was due to close, they have been reluctant to enrol
their children in short-term care.
Though many local families are looking for child care, especially
with last week’s closure of the Whistler Children’s Centre’s Spring
Creek location, parents are looking for stable, long-term spots for
their kids, Kamstra said. Though Teddy Bear’s capacity is 16 kids, an
average of 12 or 13 are attending and the numbers fluctuate each day,
“We believe that daycare and Teddy Bear is a vital part of our
community,” he said. “We were only offered a one-year lease on that
place… We’ve tried unsuccessfully to renew it.”
WB took over operations of the daycare last July after significant
public outcry at the Millennium Place Society’s announcement that the
centre would be closed to make way for arts and culture uses. Dennis
Marriott, general manager of Millennium Place, on Tuesday (March 3)
said the building’s operating society was only in a position to offer
WB a one-year operating contract.
With the municipality set to take over ownership of the building and
advising the society the building would likely be “repurposed” for
several months around the Games in 2010, an end date of June 2009 was
fixed, he said. It was decided that would be a better time for families
to transition and find alternate care than in December 2009, Marriott
Kamstra said WB officials were seeking a contract term of three
years, but were told the space would likely be leased out during the
But Mayor Ken Melamed said while the possibility for Olympic-related
uses in the space was a factor in the decision to only offer WB a
one-year lease, it wasn’t the “overriding factor.” The operating
society limited the term because it decided to pursue arts and culture
uses in Millennium Place.
“Our intention was not to force daycare out in exchange for an
opportunity (to rent out) Millennium Place during the Games,” Melamed
He said Council supports the Millennium Place Society’s decision to
close the daycare, because the municipality has given the society the
task of operating the building.
But Councillor Ralph Forsyth is set to put forward a motion at the
March 17 Council meeting asking that Council direct staff to negotiate
with a third-party operator to secure a long-term lease for Teddy Bear
Daycare. A similar motion he put forward last May was defeated.
Forsyth, who sits on a local child-care working group, said with the
Spring Creek daycare closed and now the Teddy Bear in its final few
weeks, “We have a crisis on our hands.”
A new study about arts and culture in Whistler recommends that
Millennium Place become an arts hub, while an upcoming child-care
report will likely suggest local daycare spaces be retained, Forsyth
said. The child-care study is expected to be made public at the March
17 Council meeting.
“Council is going to have to make difficult decisions,” Forsyth said.
He said he feels for parents who are struggling to find child care, and he’s in the same situation with his family.
“As a parent, it’s heartbreaking,” Forsyth said of Teddy Bear’s imminent closure.
Marriott said the Millennium Place Society board is reviewing “a
number of proposals” from groups that want to use the daycare space and
other parts of the facility. There are proposals for use of the daycare
space starting in June, but no decisions have yet been made, he said.
“Most of the applications are for arts and culture-related uses,” Marriott said.
The board is considering the various reports as well as input from
the community to try to figure out what the best use of Millennium
Place is for three phases — before, during and after the 2010 Games, he
said. The next board meeting is March 18.