Composite of all candidates for Fernie City Council at the 2022 municipal elections: Ange Qualizza, Nic Milligan, Jesse Mould, Kyle Hamilton, Troy Nixon, Ted Shoesmith, Patrick Burke, Zuzana Simpson, Blaine Fabi, April Montague, Spencer Gough, Jonathan MacGregor, Tracey Audia Kelly, Kevin McIsaac, Harshan Ramadass, Bob Langfield. (contributed, and file photos)

Composite of all candidates for Fernie City Council at the 2022 municipal elections: Ange Qualizza, Nic Milligan, Jesse Mould, Kyle Hamilton, Troy Nixon, Ted Shoesmith, Patrick Burke, Zuzana Simpson, Blaine Fabi, April Montague, Spencer Gough, Jonathan MacGregor, Tracey Audia Kelly, Kevin McIsaac, Harshan Ramadass, Bob Langfield. (contributed, and file photos)

Fernie election reader questions: Childcare

The Free Press asked all 16 candidates for public office in Fernie about childcare in the community

In the lead up to the October 15 municipal elections, The Free Press will be passing along reader-generated questions to the 16 candidates for public office at the City of Fernie.

On Tuesday this week, we posed this question from a reader:

  • “The current lack of child care spaces (with waitlists up to 2+ years) is a huge problem for young families in Fernie. In your opinion, what is the root cause of this issue locally, and how will you work to help solve this problem for our community?”

Candidates were asked to answer the question in 100 words or less as if they were at an all-candidate forum.

Only candidates who responded by deadline (October 13, 12 noon) are included. Here are their responses verbatim, in no particular order:

Tracey Audia Kelly (council candidate)

I believe there are issues with available suitable space to use for daycare centres. Daycare centres also require trained staff who have certification. I understand there is a lack of staff as well. Secure child care is very important to working families. There are provincial governments grants for those wishing to start daycares. The city could write letters of support for any grants. I used to administer the provincial day care subsidy for the East Kootenay and am willing to work with any groups to try to improve our daycare situation.

Zuzana Simpson (council candidate)

Lack of daycare spaces suggests that we either A. don’t have enough qualified staff or B. childcare centres are not profitable. Daycare providers are competing for space in a tight

real estate market, which takes us back to the root cause, which is lack of housing and high rent.

Although childcare licensing is under provincial jurisdiction, the city could offer financial incentives such as reduced property taxes/rent for all daycare operators as a possible solution.

This issue will require further study so we can come up with creative, made in Fernie solutions.

April Montague (council candidate)

The reality is that this problem is also a housing problem. Where are childcare providers going to live? Even with wages of up to $26 an hour, child care providers can’t get staff to move to Fernie due to the high cost of living. Even with BC and Federal Governments introducing $10 a day care it will not change the lack of child care spaces. I want to listen and support childcare providers as best I can. I will listen to and advocate for childcare.

Patrick Burke (council candidate)

The root cause is 2 fold, lack child certified workers and spaces. The province will only allow BC certified child care workers and this has caused the problem. I feel a child care certified person from Alberta should be able to work in BC or any province. There may be space at the Max Turk Community Center that the city owns if it becomes available. I would also partition the province for help.

Jesse Mould (council candidate)

local Governments need to recognize that childcare is essential to a healthy and prosperous town/city.

As a counselor with 6 children of my own, I would work with the other counselors and city staff to change land use and zoning policy to be more favorable toward creating childcare facilities.

There are also several provincially funded programs that we may be able to leverage to help create new childcare facilities in Fernie.

Blaine Fabi (council candidate)

As with many businesses in Fernie, the lack of child care is in large part due to the lack of child care workers. A large part of that is the cost of living/ housing in Fernie. The city can also look at ways to make it easier to get permits to run day care centers as well as perhaps some ways to help with the cost of insurance, staffing, etc.

Harshan Ramadass (council candidate)

The root cause is the same as it is for lack of housing/commercial retail: lack of supply of spaces. Streamlining permitting process means making spaces available quicker. If that means simplifying zoning bylaws, I would push for it. The city OCP on childcare is well defined, we just have to execute on it. Out of the seven items listed there, the one that’s the most effective would be to partner with major employers through agreements. Working at Teck and managing teams myself I know childcare is an important consideration for us, COF can/should play leadership role with major employers.

Kyle Hamilton (incumbent council candidate)

I believe that the root cause of the lack of childcare spaces is a societal underinvestment in growth planning and preparation. The same as why Fernie’s elementary school is bursting at the seams. The solution is to work with local, regional, provincial and federal partners and organizations to build the capacity for more spaces, and the locations for more spaces.

Nic Milligan (mayor candidate)

Many effects felt in our community are interrelated. A high cost of living coupled with an acute housing shortage is felt in every sector, including childcare. Local government can assist by making both childcare and housing a priority. Like caring for our seniors, childcare is good for our community and can free up parents as possible employees to help address an equally acute labour shortage. The city can begin by ensuring we respect our partnerships with not-for-profits in this much-needed sector, including keeping their rents fair and manageable and not proposing a revised lease with a 43% first-year increase.

Kevin McIsaac (incumbent council candidate)

The root cause of the lack of childcare is the shortage of staff. The effect on families and the economy from keeping parents at home is profound. Child care needs to be a first-class service like education and the provincial government has to be at the table. (They are getting there based on our meetings with ministers.) We are poised to take advantage of net new childcare space grant funding. The solution is unfortunately complex, requiring elevated salaries for workers, affordable housing, public transportation, and an improved certification process to increase the number of childcare spots appreciably.

Bob Langfield (council candidate)

This widespread problem adversely effects children’s development. This industry has struggled with difficulties related to covid restrictions and historic high turnover rates and difficulty hiring/retaining qualified/certified employees primarily due to lack of Provincially certified workers and low wages/benefits. Current conditions will worsen as many persons working from home due to covid restrictions are required to return to their companies workplace. The Provincial affordable child care program is a significant step forward but Provincial training/certifying more workers and improving wages/benefits is needed. Council must identify this as a significant community concern and work toward finding local affordable facilities for childcare providers to operate.

Ange Qualizza (incumbent mayor candidate)

The province has increased their investment into childcare, with a commitment of $237 million to include funding of the new childcare spaces. We have already advanced our intent with the Minister of State that Fernie will be pursuing a collaborative approach to new childcare spaces.

With our Lands Disposition Policy complete, having already engaged to the Province for support on advancing our application, Fernie is well positioned to take advantage of the next funding announcement for new childcare spaces. We have learned through presentation from other municipalities at UBCM how to work through and find creative partnerships, we are ready.

Troy Nixon (incumbent council candidate)

Municipalities are primarily responsible for roads, sewer, water and discretionary services. In the last decade we have witnessed downloading of responsibilities from the provincial government which makes local governments across British Columbia responsible for more services (like childcare) without adequate funding and Staff capacity. There is no single answer or simple way out of this challenge as we need a blend of solutions. First, petition the higher levels of government to deliver on their promises which will in turn create spaces in our community. Second, we need to find partners who can can collaborate and create real physical spaces for kids in local facilities.

Do you have a question you want to hear from all candidates on? Email your question to editor@thefreepress.ca, and we will endeavor to reach out to all candidates on your behalf.

READ MORE: Fernie election: Coverage of candidates and questions



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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Election 2022