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Smithers continuing to work on childcare plan

Council approves grant application to start the plan

Not everyone was on board when Smithers council approved a Northern Development Initiative Trust grant application to fund the implementation of the Smithers Childcare Plan.

At the Aug. 23 regular meeting of council, town staff recommended council approve the application to help pay for this project addressing an existing gap in childcare availability in town by exploring the creation of a new childcare incentive policy.

Coun. Frank Wray and Coun. Lorne Benson opposed the grant application.

Benson said he worries the town will diminish private investment by favouring public enterprises and Wray didn’t like how the provincial government was downloading the problem on to the town.

On the flip-side, Coun. Casda Thomas said this policy is within the town’s scope and it is the town’s responsibility to help create spaces and Coun. Greg Brown said it is important for the town to do something because he has heard from people who didn’t move into town because there isn’t childcare.

READ MORE: Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers areas benefit from $10-a-day childcare spaces

According to a report from town staff, the Smithers Childcare Plan was completed in 2021. It outlines three strategies to support childcare space creation. The first strategy is to create a local framework which includes taking actions such as establishing a policy, updating existing regulations, creating tax incentives, and conduct periodic monitoring. The second strategy involves the town playing the role of an active partner in space creation by taking actions such as sharing the Childcare Plan findings, supporting co-location, support reduced lease rates, and exploration in use of town land. The third involves the town advocating and communicating by taking actions such as advocating to the province, providing care information to the public, and participating in further discussions regarding childcare in Smithers.

The report goes on to say the implementation of the Childcare Plan is important because adequate childcare supports healthy children, benefits local businesses, develops human capital supports working parents, improves equity for women and single parents while enabling poverty reduction, and builds stronger communities.

As a critical first step in implementing this plan, a consultant will be brought on to explore potential childcare policies to incentivize space creation.

If the grant application is successful, this project will be 90 per cent funded by NDIT and the remaining 10 per cent (totalling $3,000) will be funded from the Development Services Contracted Services budget.

Staff expects to hear if the grant is successful or not by October and if successful, the project timeline will be around a year.


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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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