Need for more childcare spaces in B.C. is critical

Lack of childcare in B.C.

Sarah and John (names changed for privacy) recently came in to discuss an impossible situation.

They are a hardworking couple who, despite their best efforts, are struggling to find affordable childcare for their two young children. Sarah works in healthcare, a sector already stretched thin, and John is a skilled tradesman. Both contribute significantly to our community, yet they are faced with an impossible choice—find affordable childcare or consider moving away from the city they love.

Their story is not unique. Across British Columbia, families are grappling with the same issue. The B.C. NDP campaigned in 2017 to address this by creating more childcare spaces and making them universally $10 per day, but (in government) it has failed to deliver.

While the federal government has put forward the majority of money for childcare funding spaces right now, the provincial government has only raised its spending by a meagre 4%.

The track record of the current provincial government shows it has failed to deliver on their promises. Despite its commitments, the number of new childcare spaces created has been insufficient to meet the growing demand.

Since 2019, the number of childcare spaces in B.C. has decreased by 10,600, while the number of children has increased by more than 50,000. That leaves parents on waiting lists for months, sometimes years, without any relief in sight. Of the families using child care in B.C., 58.8% reported difficulty finding it in 2023, up from 46.5% in 2019.

This failure has real consequences. Parents are forced to cut back on work hours, quit their jobs or, like Sarah and John, consider moving to places where childcare is more accessible.

The lack of accessible and affordable childcare is not just a personal issue for these families, it is an economic crisis that affects us all.

BC United understands accessible and affordable childcare is not a luxury, is a necessity. It is essential for the economic stability and growth of our province. It’s plan is straightforward and achievable. It will deliver $10-a-day childcare by having the money follow the child, rather than having designated spaces, ensuring families do not have to make the tough choice between their careers and their children's well-being.

Childcare is a cornerstone of a thriving economy. When parents have reliable childcare options, they can participate fully in the workforce, driving productivity and growth.

Businesses benefit from a more stable and available workforce, reducing turnover and training costs. The broader economy benefits from the increased spending power of families who are not burdened by exorbitant childcare costs. BC United's plan is rooted in economic pragmatism. It will invest in building new childcare spaces and improving existing ones.

By partnering with communities, private providers, and educational institutions, a diverse network of childcare options that meet the needs of all families can be created. This approach will not only address the immediate crisis but also lay the groundwork for sustainable, long-term growth in our childcare sector.

Moreover, the plan will support early childhood educators by ensuring they receive fair wages and professional development opportunities. High-quality childcare starts with well-supported educators who are passionate about their work and committed to our children's future. We owe it to our children, our families, and our province to get this right.

It's time for a new vision for childcare in British Columbia. Let's work together to make affordable, accessible childcare a reality for all.

My question for you is this:

How has the lack of affordable childcare impacted your family and your ability to work or participate in our community?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Quality of life suffers as social problems rise

Making Kelowna better

As a long-time resident of Kelowna, I have always taken pride in our city’s unique blend of natural beauty, vibrant community and opportunities for growth.

That is why I found the recent survey results indicating a majority of Kelowna residents perceive a decline in their quality of life over the past three years deeply troubling, but not surprising.

At every gathering I have attended lately, I ask if people if they can think of one part of their lives that has improved over the last several years. I haven’t had anyone come up with a positive answer. Which is why the findings of the survey weren’t surprising.

But I am still alarmed. One of the most significant concerns highlighted in those conversations is the escalating cost of living, which has been exacerbated by the government’s ineffective housing policies. Housing prices have soared under the current government’s watch, making it increasingly difficult for families and young professionals to afford to live here.

The rental market is equally challenging, with high demand driving up prices and reducing availability. This housing crisis not only impacts individuals and families but also the broader community, as people are forced to move away in search of more affordable options, leading to a loss of talent and vibrancy in our city.

And this is going to continue with news building permits are down significantly in the first quarter, resulting in fewer housing starts with a continued increase in population growth.

Another pressing issue is the rise in crime and concerns about public safety, which have been poorly addressed by the government. While Kelowna was once considered a relatively safe haven, we are now witnessing increased incidents of theft, vandalism, and drug-related crimes.

This surge not only affects our sense of security but also tarnishes the reputation of our city. The government has failed to ensure our law enforcement agencies are adequately resourced and supported to tackle these issues effectively.

Growing homelessness is a visible and distressing symptom of deeper social issues that the B.C. government has neglected. Many of those on our streets are struggling with mental health issues and addiction, and the current support systems are woefully inadequate.

Rather than give those struggling hope through significant investments in treatment and recovery options, the failed decriminalization experiment exacerbated the situation and created untenable situations with open drug use in our streets, our public spaces, and even being required to be tolerated in our hospitals.

We need a comprehensive approach that includes mental health services, addiction treatment, and affordable housing solutions to address the root causes of homelessness.

Kelowna’s rapid growth has also outpaced the development of our infrastructure and transportation systems, another area where the provincial government has fallen short. Traffic congestion is becoming a daily headache for residents, and our public transit system is struggling to keep up with demand. Investing in infrastructure is not just about convenience. It’s about ensuring that our city remains livable and accessible for all.

So how do we make the quality of life better for Kelowna? By addressing these issues with solutions that will have positive results and a multifaceted approach with commitment from all levels of government, community organizations, and residents.

Priorities need to be affordable housing, enhancing public safety measures, tangible investments in mental health and addiction services, and ensuring our infrastructure keeps pace with growth.

Kelowna is at a crossroads. We can either continue down a path of declining quality of life or we can take decisive action to restore and enhance the vibrancy of our city. It’s not too late to turn things around.

Let us come together and work towards a future where everyone in Kelowna can thrive.

My question to you this week is this:

How do you feel about your quality of life, and what is the largest factor in your experience?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Huge investment in hydrogen plants won't garner much of a return says MLA

Expensive but flawed plan

Last week’s announcement by Premier David Eby (that B.C. will) invest $900 million in hydrogen plants and refuelling stations has been touted as a significant step towards reducing emissions and creating jobs.

However, a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story. This massive investment will only create 300 jobs and lower emissions by a mere 0.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). That translates to an astonishing $3 million per job, an exorbitant cost that raises serious questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of this expenditure.

First, let’s address the job creation aspect. At $3 million per job, this investment is far from a prudent use of taxpayer dollars. In comparison, other sectors can create jobs at a fraction of that cost. For instance, investments in small businesses and traditional industries have historically yielded higher employment rates at significantly lower costs.

The government’s approach appears to be more about making headlines than making real economic sense.

Second, the emission reductions promised by this investment are minuscule. Reducing emissions by 0.1 MtCO2e is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the larger environmental challenges we face.

But this is par for the course for the government. In my debate during the budget estimates, I had the environment minister confirm how the government is planning to spend billions on zero-emission vehicles, aiming to lower emissions by only 0.5 MtCO2e by 2030.

But it was across almost every sector. The new housing standards under the B.C. Step Code, will cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually and continue to raise housing prices and rental rates and are only projected to reduce emissions by 0.5 MtCO2e.

Those initiatives are incredibly costly relative to the minimal environmental benefits they offer. That was confirmed by the government’s own forecasts of the economic impacts of Clean BC.

Ken Peacock, from the Business Council of British Columbia, used the forecast model by government to point out the CleanBC initiative is slowing down our economy without delivering significant emission reductions.

The economic burdens imposed by these policies are stifling growth and innovation, yet the environmental benefits remain negligible. This approach of heavy spending for minimal gain is neither sustainable nor sensible. That was confirmed by our economy, which has gone from a top performer, to the second to last in Canada.

So what is the solution? A recent report by the National Bank highlights a far more impactful strategy for reducing global emissions. By getting B.C.’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India, we could lower global emissions by 2,400 MtCO2e annually.

Additionally, estimates show if the four LNG projects in B.C. were operational—currently, we only have one—we could reduce China’s emissions by 133 MtCO2e annually, which is more than double B.C.’s total emissions. This clearly shows our focus should be on expanding our natural resource sector, which has the potential to make a significant global impact.

That is why, instead of tinkering around the edges with expensive and ineffective policies, a Kevin Falcon-led BC United government would double down on our strengths. B.C. has a wealth of natural resources that, if properly managed and utilized, can drive economic growth while making a substantial contribution to global emission reductions.

The premier’s current plan is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but also a missed opportunity to leverage our resources for the greater good.

While the goal of reducing emissions is commendable, the methods currently being pursued by the government are flawed and inefficient. It is time for a pragmatic approach that aligns economic growth with environmental responsibility. Investing in our natural resource sector, particularly LNG, offers a viable path forward that can deliver real results.

The government’s announcements are just that—expensive words without results.

My question to you this week is this:

How do you think we should be tackling environmental challenges?

I love hearing from you and read every word. Email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


'Walk back' of provincial government legislation

Changing course

As the legislative session draws to a close, I wanted to draw attention to some of the legislative changes that will impact us, and reflect on the works done by the Opposition.

Representing Kelowna-Mission as a member of the BC United, I have had the opportunity to advocate for the needs and concerns of our community and to hold the government accountable for its actions. One of the key accomplishments during this session was the “walk-back” of two controversial government bills and partial "walk back" of a third.

Those bills, which would have had far-reaching negative impacts on our communities, were halted thanks to the persistent efforts of the opposition and concerned British Columbians. This demonstrated the power of a strong, engaged opposition in ensuring legislation truly serves the best interests of British Columbians.

The first bill was the Land Amendment Act. That bill would have made substantive changes to the Land Act and eroded our democratic interests over our public lands. This bill saw so much push back, the government eventually “paused” the bill. While it did not come forward at this time, it may be brought back if the NDP win another term in government.

The second bill was deemed for social media company accountability, but was not as it was named. The proposed legislation put huge liability on all companies that would have done business in, or for, B.C., with only a minister’s certificate needed as proof. That would have essentially ended the business community in B.C. The bill was introduced, but was pushed back by the opposition during second reading.

Another significant development was the “walk-back” of (part of) the decriminalization of illicit drugs. Public pressure and the Opposition’s questions brought changes that were necessary. While the step (to decriminalize illicit drug use in public places) partially addressed open drug use, the government did not bring solutions for the issue. We need comprehensive policies that include robust prevention programs, accessible treatment options and effective recovery services. This multi-faceted approach is essential to truly tackling the complex issue of substance abuse and ensuring those who need it receive the support they deserve.

Despite these achievements on these three issues, there are still major issues facing British Columbians that have not been adequately addressed.

The affordability crisis continues to place immense pressure on families and individuals. The cost of housing, everyday expenses and the overall cost of living are making it increasingly difficult for people to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the bills introduced in this session do not effectively tackle these pressing concerns. We need policies that will significantly increase housing supply, streamline approval processes, and make homeownership more attainable for young families and first-time buyers.

The recent provincial budget claimed to offer relief, but in reality, it gave mere pennies while taking dollars from people and businesses. The approach places an additional burden on those who are already struggling, stifles economic growth, and discourages investment. Small businesses, the backbone of our economy, are particularly hard hit. They need a budget that supports innovation, reduces regulatory burdens, and provides meaningful tax relief. Instead, we see policies that hinder their growth and sustainability.

Despite all of the new taxes (32 in the last four years), the budget posed an $8 billion deficit. The government is now spending $4 billion of tax money a year on the interest on the debt it has accumulated.

While the legislative session saw some important achievements, it also highlighted the ongoing challenges and shortcomings in addressing the needs of British Columbians.

As a member of the opposition BC United, I am committed to continuing the fight for policies that genuinely benefit our province and to holding the government accountable for its actions.

My question to you is this:

What outstanding provincial issues would you like to see action on from government?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Kelowna. She has announced she will not seek re-election in the next provincial election, scheduled for October.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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