“I am a woman in the workforce, a woman entrepreneur and a mother of two. This is my life’s work.”
The way we talk about childcare has changed over the last few years, with a growing acknowledgement that childcare is more than “just” a social service. It’s also an economic enabler that can unlock opportunities for parents to work outside the home.
Childcare choice matters, and there are lots of smart ways we can enable more options for working parents as the nature of work evolves. I’ve been talking about this for a long time, including articles last year in the Vancouver Sun and Business in Vancouver.
As we chart the future of childcare in BC, we need to acknowledge the critical role that private childcare operators have played and continue to play. Private operators deliver more than 60,000 childcare spaces, and have created 85% of the new spaces over the last 4 years.
These are real people - small business operators, mostly women, who have invested their blood, sweat, and tears to build businesses large and small over decades. It is not necessary to crush their entrepreneurial dreams in order to unlock the dreams of other women.
There should be a place for private childcare operators as part of the solution moving forward. However, brand new Freedom of Information disclosures suggest the BC NDP are intentionally undercutting private operators.
As part of my BC Liberal leadership campaign, I’ve spoken with countless passionate childcare operators like Sandra Christian, who was recently recognized with a Women in Business Award by the Surrey Board of Trade. These aren't political people - they just want to run their businesses and take care of kids.
Sandra founded Creative Kids Learning Centers in Surrey 25 years ago, starting as a preschool in a double wide portable. Her company has since grown to 11 large locations in Surrey, Langley, and Chilliwack, offering childcare programs for ages 4 months to 12 years of age.
Here’s what Sandra had to say, in own words:
I am a woman in the workforce, a woman entrepreneur and a mother of two. Creative Kids and Early Childhood Education are my life’s work. This is all I know.
I feel strongly that the voices of the private childcare sector, women entrepreneurs and women run businesses; of all sizes need to be heard as new childcare policies are developed and implemented.
Having borne the weight of childcare for the past 25 years, not to mention being front of the line essential care workers, throughout the pandemic, we are scared that our businesses will be “taken over,” shut down, dissolved, and worse - forgotten.
Many important policy conversations are geared towards the effect of the pandemic on Canadian women, especially the devastating and disproportional impact on women in the workforce. An often-overlooked group of women are women business owners and entrepreneurs.
Both the Provincial and Federal governments are taking actions to support women by ensuring they have access to childcare that is safe, reliable, high quality, flexible, and affordable.
Those are the right goals, and people support them. I support them. But the provincial government has taken a drastic leap of logic, arriving at the conclusion that the only way to achieve that is through an enlarged government bureaucracy and a diminished role for private operators like me.
I am a woman in business. I am a woman entrepreneur. People like me, and our whole teams, have been there for our fellow British Columbians throughout the pandemic. We did not have a choice to work from home as we provided care to families. Our early childhood educators could not work behind masks or plexiglass. We were not able to social distance as we wiped tears, hugged children, and changed their diapers.
But, as we have done for years, Creative Kids was able to provide safe, reliable, high quality, flexible and affordable childcare to more than 1000 families while employing over 200 ECE educators.
Those of us whose small and medium businesses survived through the pandemic now find ourselves threatened by government policies that are slowly squeezing out the private childcare sector and making our businesses harder and harder to sustain.
How can anyone speak of supporting women in business while doing this?
Private childcare operators like Sandra deserve dignity, autonomy, and equality of opportunity, but they’re not getting that from the BC NDP right now.
BC Liberals are the party of the economy. These are our people - small business operators who are getting a raw deal from a government that thinks it knows best, that wants to replace them with a bloated, expensive bureaucracy. We need to stand up for people like Sandra, welcome childcare operators into our political family, and hold the NDP to account on this crucial issue for families all over BC.
BC Liberal Leadership Candidate