Living/Working July 24, 2020


July 24, 2020

Affordable child care seen as essential to getting parents back to work

Lisa Weighton, Eric Young, and their 14-month-old son Robin in front of their Fairfield residence | Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

When Victoria mom Lisa Weighton finished her maternity leave in May, she took an extra six weeks off work because she couldn’t find daycare for her 14-month-old son Robin. Weighton returned to her communications job in mid-June after she and her husband, Eric Young, a health care worker, enrolled Robin in a West Shore daycare that was providing temporary care for the children of essential workers.

Weighton is on the hunt again for another daycare, because Robin’s daycare spot is only secured until Aug. 31, which is when the B.C. government’s temporary emergency funding for licensed child care centres ends. The province has spent $150 million since April to ensure that parents who took their kids out of daycare because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19 would not lose their spot.

“It’s extremely stressful,” Weighton said.

“I feel very vulnerable, I feel defeated. We were so happy to have found that spot in the first place.”

Weighton knew the spot was temporary but she was willing to take the risk so she could return to work as soon as possible.

“I feel like now I’m back at square one.”

The daycare shortage in B.C. has become even more dire since some child care centres are re-opening at reduced capacity due to COVID-19.

It’s a situation that could force some parents, particularly women, to leave their jobs or opt for part-time hours if they can’t find affordable child care. Economists fear that a reduction in the labour force could hamper economic recovery.

According to Statistics Canada’s June Labour Force Survey, the employment recovery has been “slowest for mothers with school-aged children,” with employment rising 5.2 per cent for women and 6.4 per cent for men with children younger than six. For mothers of children ages six to 17, however, women’s employment remains below pre-pandemic levels, and women with children are more likely to be working less than half their usual hours.

Christina Dicks, co-administrator at Alberni Valley Childcare Society in Port Alberni, said the centre took on new families who needed emergency temporary child care but those families have been notified they will lose their spot when regular clients return after Aug. 31.

Some of the temporary clients include recently graduated licensed nurse practitioners who put their children into daycare so they could return to the health care sector, Dicks said. She worries about whether those parents will be able to find other daycare spots come September.

“So those families are going to be without childcare,” she said. “I’m sure there are other families who don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Adding to the problem is the shortage of early childhood educators, Dicks said, many of whom took a leave from work because they’re worried about increased exposure to COVID-19.

“We’ve lost staff because they didn’t want to work. They were scared, there was a lot of fear.” It’s impossible to physically distance from infants and toddlers, Dicks said, and many educators are frustrated that they haven’t received any hazard pay for their increased exposure. The vast majority of early childhood educators in Canada are women.

“I’ve heard ECEs say ‘We don’t get enough money to work in a pandemic,’ ” Dicks said.

In September, the centre will not have enough staff to operate at full capacity, Dicks said. That will also mean a shortage of backup staff to replace an educator who is sick.

“If [situation] it wasn’t critical before, it’s absolutely dire now,” she said.

Elisabeth Gugl, associate professor of economics at the University of Victoria, said while the number of dual-earner families in Canada has been steadily rising and while the gender pay gap between women and men is gradually closing, gender norms often influence women’s decision to stay home to care for the children. Also, if one of the two parents has to stay home, it’s likely to be the person who makes less, she said.

According to a 2019 Statistics Canada report, women in B.C. earn an average of 20 per cent less an hour than men, which is the largest gender pay gap in Canada.

When Quebec introduced its program of subsidized child care in the 1990s, it resulted in a huge increase in women’s labour force participation, Gugl said. “The availability of child care is often a key determinant as to whether women join the labour force.”

B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for gender issues, Mitzi Dean, said the provincial government is doing everything it can to build up child care capacity so that parents can return to work. “This is a critical issue. This is something we’ve been discussing as part of the [B.C. government’s] restart [plan] but we need to make sure that it isn’t women who are punished more and disproportionately because of this pandemic.”

Dean said she has talked to parents across the region, particularly women, who are struggling to juggle working from home and caring for their children. “You’re literally doing far too many jobs for one person in a 24-hour period,” she said.

The province has earmarked $2 billion over three years for child care, Dean said, “because we know that it’s good for the economy, because we know it helps close the gender pay gap and it actually means that women are more engaged in the workplace and they’re able to take those promotion opportunities.”

Asked about the shortage of early childhood educators and concerns over the lack of hazard pay, Dean said the provincial government has been giving the educators a wage enhancement of $2-an-hour since April. Child care centres receiving the temporary emergency funding are also able to use some of that funding to boost wages, Dean said.

Last week, the federal government announced $19 billion to help the provinces and territories restart their economies and one of the priorities was increasing the number of safe child care spaces so that parents can return to work.

The federal NDP is calling on the government to invest in a universal child care and early learning program. “Affordable child care is essential for restarting the economy, and since care work in families often falls to women, it is particularly essential when it comes to making sure women can return to work,” Victoria NDP MP Laurel Collins said in a statement. “Half our work force is women, and economic recovery is going to be impossible without them. If the government doesn’t invest in child care, families and the economy will continue to struggle.”

Randall Garrison, the NDP MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke urged the government to bring in legislation, similar to the Canada Health Act but for child care, which would ensure families across the country have access to quality, affordable, publicly-funded child care.

Premier John Horgan said last week that the pandemic has had a “disproportionate impact on women, on people of colour, vulnerable populations. That’s why I’m so pleased to see resources available for child care — which is not exclusively a women’s issue — but child care and vulnerable populations in the federal package.”

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the Ministry of Education has not yet provided full details on the school reopening plan for September, which is creating uncertainty and added stress for parents. “It’s a very serious problem in this country and especially in our province that working parents, and especially mothers are contemplating the prospect of not being able to go back to work because they can’t find a daycare space or they’re not sure what the school days are going to be for their children.”

Wilkinson said the plan for re-opening schools seems to be in “disarray” and the government should have this essential service figured out by now.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said its advice for parents of elementary and middle school students is that they should plan for full-time in-class learning in September. The ministry said a committee of parents, teachers, support staff, First Nations and public health officials, has been established to develop a final plan for all grades for September. More information will be available at the end of the month.

On the issue of daycare, Wilkinson advocates for an online application system that would list every publicly funded daycare space to create a streamlined list for parents looking for care.

Emily Gawlick, executive director of the Early Childhood Educators of B.C., said across the province, some daycares are opening with limited capacity and some at full capacity, creating uncertainty for parents. Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen, Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson and Dean are expected to announce new childcare spaces in Nanaimo and Ladysmith today.

In March, the B.C. government announced that its Childcare B.C. plan has funded more than 13,000 child care spaces since July 2018. However, many of the publicly funded child care centres and before-and-after school care spaces are still under construction. The government announced in March 462 new spaces in the Capital Regional District, 300 of which will be in elementary schools for before-and-after school care.

Gawlick said even with the prospect of new spaces, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already critical shortage of early childhood educators, who balk at stagnant wages while the cost of living rises.

The association says wages of between $20-an-hour for an early childhood education assistant and up to $29-an-hour for someone with a two-year college diploma, could help recruit and retain qualified staff.

Affordable daycare spaces are essential in getting parents, especially women, back in the workforce, Gawlick said. “It seems to be, for the majority, it’s the mothers who are working from home. [Women] are suffering financially and their careers are taking a back seat because COVID-19.”

Times Colonist


City faces major mayoral leadership deficit in dangerous times

By any objective measure, the pandemic has been a political test and opportunity Kennedy Stewart has done nothing but squandered.

One need not align with his politics to, in a pandemic of consequence and unprecedence, align with the bipartisan purpose required by his office to lead the community through its largest threat in memory. On that score the first-term Vancouver mayor has been consistently ineffective in the face of the large challenge.

Other political leaders at national, provincial and municipal levels have risen to the occasion in their jurisdictions; Stewart has been indiscernible and the city has had no representative face in these tumultuous months. There is a lengthy list of exhibits in his trial of error:

•Overblowing the financial crisis of the city initially.

•Creating, then killing, a business advisory group to help the city’s economy recover.

•Participating belatedly and skimpily in making a personal salary sacrifice.

•Calling the early provincial measures to assist civic financial navigation a “poisoned chalice.”

•Failing to understand the city’s spending capacity.

•Sharing a meal outdoors at a restaurant with seven others, a pandemic no-no.

His 2018 election was a matter of a relative known defeating unknowns, with no particular concept put forward of the city’s necessary direction. He has neither coalesced his council into reliable allies of resolve nor jettisoned the previous Vision Vancouver regime’s administrative stronghold. His relationship to the economic engines of the city is negligible. And then, perhaps most seriously for the long term, there is the police thing.

The horror of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis was a catalyst for the examination of institutional systems across North America, particularly our policing.

In declaring systemic racism in the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), Stewart positioned himself as passive spectator rather than responsible participant. He has been the police board chair for nearly three years, yet neither campaigned on this important issue nor raised it until the rising tide of calls for reform hit our shores. In breaking his silence of any systemic faults among those he oversees, he lacked the spine to acknowledge his own situated position.

The problem was someone else’s – to bear and to fix.

Why, if the VPD were systemically racist, would he not have declared this long ago as the principal official in its governance? But no, this is how Stewart has rolled in his term. He is the city’s petitioner-in-chief, a delegator of difficult tasks up the line: the financing of shelter for the growing homelessness, the infrastructure to combat opioid tragedies, the delivery of anything approaching affordable housing, the financial crisis management, and in this case, the review of his own police force. Trouble is, he is perfectly capable of reviewing the system himself; the province, his ideological ally, has said so.

As an act of hubris, he declared his 2022 re-election campaign in the first of four years of his mandate, even asking people to choose to donate to his perpetuation over that of shopping locally.

The city’s payroll has grown by more than 1,100 since he assumed office. Property taxes have risen at multiples of inflation. The population density along Hastings Street and the population density along our beaches in the coronavirus are outdoor objects of his futility in grasping what other mayors in similar circumstances would tackle as a day-and-night emergencies upon which there would be no rest until addressed.

Apart from showing up for council, where is he to guide the city in its extended moment of need?

The flank for the mayoralty has been opened. If conservatives or progressives can avoid congesting the race, he is one and done. His best hope is that a lot of good people want to replace him. •

Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.



This free new audio walking tour takes you deep into the stories of Vancouver's eclectic West End

All you need are some headphones and good walking shoes

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A new audio walking tour will take you all over Vancouver's colourful and historic West End neighbourhood - all you need are some headphones and good walking shoes.

Launched by Car Free Vancouver and "hosted" by local historian and author Aaron Chapman, the We Live Here - West End Audio Tour covers decades of local history and about 4.9 kilometres of ground.

Make your way through the streets of the West End and listen along as Chapman and four other storytellers bring you tales of the neighbourhood, representing a variety of styles and topics (including one segment that you'll want to skip if you're exploring with kids). 

There's no set time or course - the West End Audio Tour features a suggested walking route, but can also be broken up into smaller treks for multiple strolls, and, of course, stopping to enjoy the view, grab a bite to eat or something to drink, or relax with your walking companion(s) are all worthy diversions. It's truly a choose your own adventure.

Car Free Vancouver says they have been looking for ways to keep Vancouverites sticking close to home something fun and unique to do in our own city. 

Contemplate vacant spaces, learn stories about special West End residents, and find out more about what went on at night once upon a time. In addition to Chapman offering some local lore in his "West End Stories" segment, hear from the following: Squamish Elder Dennis Joseph, Journalist/Broadcaster and CBC Radio documentarian Pamela Post, writer, poet, podcast host and otter enthusiast Dina Del Bucchia, and beloved author and long-time West End resident Bill Richardson. 

The tour is bike-able (though two segments will need you to walk your bike to specific locations), and you'll want to time your listening of part five with the operating hours of the Robson Public Market (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily) as it asks you to go inside. And of course, bring your water bottle and wear sunscreen.

Access the West End Audio Tour HERE.

Vancouver Is Awesome


This unique event offers over 5 acres of massive sunflowers that soar over 12 feet tall

This Lower Mainland experience offers 25 different varieties of sunflowers, and more than 50 varieties of dahlias

Photo: Chilliwack Sunflower Festival

The Chilliwack Sunflower Festival returns to the Fraser Valley this August offering hundreds of acres of soaring, golden sunflowers. However, organizers have re-imagined this year's event due to COVID-19 protocol under a new name.

And so, while there may not be a formal festival in 2020, festival presenters Tulips of the Valley will move forward with the Chilliwack Sunflower Experience. They promise plenty of safe, family-friendly ways to see the sunflowers — and take some cherished memories (as well as your own sunflowers) home with you. 

The fields will be alive with 25 different varieties of sunflowers, and more than 50 varieties of dahlias. Plus, this year the team has planted an array of colourful gladiolas.

From mid-August to Labour Day, guests may roam more than three kilometres of pathways throughout the fields. Strict social-distancing guidelines will be in place for you and your loved ones’ peace of mind, including:

• the fields’ capacity will be limited to 25%

• directional pathways that are 3 to 5 metres wide

• hand-sanitizing stations and safety notices placed where needed

• staff will be sanitizing high-touch areas throughout the day

• tickets will be sold online only, per one-hour block

• limited hands-on photo-op props

• no playground, picnic tables or lawn games this year.

 In addition to the breathtaking flower fields, guests can expect freshly cut flowers and local Chilliwack corn for sale. Cool off with an individually wrapped frozen treat or enjoy a delicious meal to-go from a food truck (located in the parking lot, off the fields). (And don’t forget — dozens of great local restaurants are just a few minutes’ drive away in Chilliwack.) 

“This summer, everyone is looking for ways to have fun while staying local and staying safe,” says Tulips of the Valley co-founder Kate Onos-Gilbert. “I hope everyone in the region who enjoyed the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival in years past — and those who haven’t had the opportunity before — will come and spend some time among the flowers. It’s the perfect way to relax in nature.”

Due to this summer’s unusually chilly weather, organizers say they can’t yet provide an official opening date, but mid-August is the aim. 

Vancouver Is Awesome 


Vancouver will soon have a destination for 'world class strudels'

Hoarding up for Honeybrew Strudel Bar at 785 Davie Street in Vancouver. Honeybrew Strudel Bar/Facebook

A spot just for strudel? Sure, why not?

Vancouver boasts a number of well-loved specialty bakeries and treat shops, including those that focus on things like French macarons, gluten-free goodies, or vegan treats. Soon, though, the city will have a new café and bakeshop that specializes in strudel.

Strudel is the German baked good made with flaky layers of buttery pastry wrapped around a fruit filling. In Vancouver, you can find it among the offerings at popular places like Breka, Purebread, or Swiss Bakery, as well as those that specialize in Eastern European fare, like Kozak, a Ukrainian bakery and cafe.

This fall, Honeybrew Strudel Bar is set to launch in downtown Vancouver. The new venture is setting up at 785 Davie Street, in the space that was previously home to a cafe outpost of Truffles, the catering company that operates three remaining spaces, including at Van Dusen Botanical Garden. 

Details about Honeybrew are scant, save that they promise "world class strudels" according to their social media

The restaurant-to-be also promises "fresh pastries, small plates, beverages, and cozy vibes under one roof. Featuring a rustic modern environment perfect for social meet-ups and small groups," per their Facebook page.

Stay tuned, as the opening approaches. 

Vancouver Is Awesome


What are we reading? July 23, 2020

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Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Some helpful pointers here on how to make sense of pandemic statistics – such as the importance of looking at seven-day averages and not just daily fluctuations in data. – ProPublica


The border remains closed, but that hasn’t stopped COVID-infected Americans from sneaking across the 49th parallel, or kept some legitimate visitors from the U.S. from breaking quarantine here. – Reuters


Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

Very little is known about how COVID-19 manifests. What causes some carriers to be asymptomatic? – National Geographic


Hayley Woodin, reporter:

Deloitte Canada asked: what is the future of the mall? In a post-pandemic world, malls will need to emphasize safety. They could also become foodie destinations and logistic hubs. – Deloitte Canada 


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Big dollars in big tech, you say? How about a market cap of US$6.4 trillion and a 53% jump in that total in one year for Apple, Amazon and the rest of the big tech quintet. – Forex School Online Review


Pretty good cashflow in mobile games too: US$52 billion and counting. – Golden Casino News