Port Coquitlam councillor calls for more ‘aggressive’ child care targets

stock photo supplied Jewel457

Three years after launching its child care plan, Port Coquitlam is playing catch-up.

In 2019, the city set a goal of adding a total of 1,449 new child care spots by 2030. As of 2022, the city has added a net total of 204 spaces – 77 fewer than the municipality’s target.

That target needs to be a little higher, according to Coun. Steve Darling.

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“I think these numbers are not aggressive enough,” he told city staff during a meeting Tuesday. “Seven hundred spaces by 2025 is not enough. We are so far behind.”

In addition to opening City Preschool at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre, the last three years have also seen the arrival of Pure Play at Shaughnessy Station Mall, and Tiny Sprouts on Kingsway Avenue. But while the city added 254 new spaces, Port Coquitlam also lost 50 child care spots due to some facilities shutting their doors, according to a city staff report.

In total, the city has 2,425 child care spaces. According to the latest census figures, the city has 6,195 children nine years old and younger.

Referring to the forthcoming Westwood highrise project, Darling emphasized the need to incorporate child care into future developments.

“We’re putting a lot of family oriented developments in here and we’re way behind,” he said. “If we have a development, Question 3 is: ‘What about child care?’ It’s not question 47.”

In Coquitlam, developers are required to provide an estimate on the child care need generated by their proposal. Development companies are generally required to either provide child care on site or put some extra cash into Coquitlam’s new reserve fund to assist the city in facilitating child care.

Port Coquitlam could consider putting density bonus money toward child care, according to the city’s director of development services Bruce Irvine.

“Until the city gets to a point where it wants to introduce more dollars into the equation, we’ve stretched our regulatory forgiveness about as far as we can,” he told council.

Besides letting non-profit child care applications move to the front of the line, the city has also made an effort to ease restrictions around where a child care can operate and relaxed parking requirements for in-home centres.

While the city would be “very favourable” to adding child care at schools, both Irvine and Darling noted schools are strained for resources.

“The school district is not an option anymore,” Darling said. “They’ve been very clear that the only way they would add space is by building new schools.”

The city is set to add about 430 child care spaces by 2025 through new developments as well as applications in commercial spaces, according to a city staff report.

Several Port Coquitlam child care centres have applied to the province’s $10-a-day program, with non-for-profit centre P’tits Lutins recently being accepted, according to the report.

The city set a goal of more than doubling the amount of child care for children younger than three years of age, while also making similar strides in the amount of space for children between the ages of three and nine.

As of 2019, the city provided:

  • 15 spaces for every 100 children younger than three years of age
  • 44 spaces for every 100 children three to five years of age
  • 23 spaces for every 100 children six to nine years of age

2030 goals

  • For children younger than three years of age: 33 child care spaces per 100 children
  • For children three to five years of age: 75 child care spaces per 100 children
  • For children six to nine years of age: 42 child care spaces per 100 children

Related: The new strategy: a look at child care in Coquitlam

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