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BC Greens: free education for preschoolers, support for parents home with kids under 3

Adapting early child care and the 21st century workplace.

Tuesday October 6, 2020 | SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends

Today Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau addressed the importance of early childhood education in combination with child care options, during a media teleconference from Vancouver.

It matters how the system is designed and built as to outcomes for children and future generations, Furstenau outlined.

BC Green Party Leader, Sonia Furstenau
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Fursteanau on the campaign trail (Sept 30, 2020)

The BC Green approach is to create a “truly comprehensive program for quality early childhood education” and care.

The promise today was to work on building a system that would provide free early childhood education for preschoolers (ages 3 and 4 years) for up to 25 hours per week, as well free child care for working parents with children under age 3.

All child care subsidies and supports as needed would be maintained to ensure adequate financial support for all families, it was stated in a followup release.

Merging child care with public education:

Furstenau said that since 2017 the Greens have been pushing for the Ministry of State for Childcare to be moved under the Ministry of Education, to build ECE as part of the public education system. Part of that requires increasing the qualifications of existing early childhood educators and also training more professionals in that field along with paying them “professional wages”.

ECE’s as professionals:

“There is no role more important than that of an early childhood educator,” said Furstenau, adding that society needs to “value the work they do and ensure they are operating as highly qualified professionals”.

This position is actually not in conflict with where the NDP have been in the last 3.5 years.

Flexible work arrangements:

Exploring the broader picture around child care, Furstenau said that “going back to work should not be the only option”.  Child care needs to be seen as “bonefide work”. She says a parent should receive  up to $350/month for staying home to are for kids under 3. “It’s a key part of helping families.”

For those who are “lucky to maintain financial stability” during the pandemic, she notes that people have felt what it’s like to slow down. To get a new pet, make bread, spend time in parks in natural spaces. “More work, spending and growth — the benefits have not been shared by most people. Wealth is concentrated at the top,” Furstenau elaborated.

“COVID has reminded many of us to take time away from work, to enjoy better balance,” she said. “People are addressing mental and physical health, relationships with family and friends and neighbours in the community, contributing genuinely to the community.”

Work-life balance is not a new idea, and Furstenau says that this far into the 21st century it’s time to make progress with that. Advanced productivity results from a more balanced work-week or work arrangement — better for both employers and employees. Despite changes in the nature of work changes in technology, the overall work world hasn’t moved beyond the five-day, 40-hour model which Furstenau said remains from factory work of the 1900s.

Shorter work week & telecommuting:

working from home
Working from home may gain a level of prestige borne of the flexibility, access to technology, and type of work that can allow for disengagement from the mainstream workplace.

A shorter work week makes people happier, reduces stress, and boosts productivity. But she says these changes should not be done “in one fell swoop, and not from the top down”. She recommends a conversation about work life balance, undertaking a consultation process with business, labour and other stakeholders toward a reduced work week and flexible work hours.   

That shift would include undertaking partnerships, incentivizing employers (including support for telecommuting where feasible), and partnering with businesses who want to be leaders. Businesses could be assisted with tracking the outcomes around productivity. The health, happiness and well-being of employees would pay off with economic benefits, she said.

The NDP government was already supporting the rollout of better Internet infrastructure around the province, including through the school districts.

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