B.C. Finance Minister Carole James delivers the budget as Premier John Horgan looks on from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, September 11, 2017. (POOL/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

NDP’s signature child care promise put off

Green leader Andrew Weaver opposes $10-a-day charge

The NDP government is still committed to creating a $10-a-day universal child care program, but “a difference of opinion” with the B.C. Green Party means the details still need to be worked out, Finance Minister Carole James says.

Speaking after James presented her budget update Monday, Green leader Andrew Weaver said the NDP’s child care plan still isn’t acceptable to him. A $10-a-day user fee is a barrier to entry for parents needing child care so they can go to work, and his plan removes that barrier.

The Green Party wants universal child care offered as a taxable benefit, so there is no up-front cost and parents pay on their income tax based on their earnings for the year, Weaver said. He noted that the NDP did not win the May election, and can only implement policies with the support of three Green MLAs.

B.C. Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said she looked through the budget documents for new funding for the NDP’s signature election promise, but only saw the additional funds her party allotted in its budget in February.

Under B.C. Liberal policy, still in effect, the province covers about 15 per cent of licensed daycare operating costs through subsidies, and assists qualified low-income parents with the costs of care. Their last expansion was $11.3 million to fund 1,800 new spaces in 30 communities.

The NDP platform promised to introduce a child care program starting this year, but James said most of the summer was lost by the inconclusive result of the May election and former premier Christy Clark’s decision to present her own throne speech and attempt to continue governing.

Negotiations continue with the B.C. Greens, and the agreement between the two parties is a reality of the minority government that emerged from the May election, James said.

James also acknowledged that the NDP’s promise of a $400-a-year rebate for renters is also still in development, despite a promise to implement it immediately.