COPE Councillor Anne Roberts warns that Vancouver may  miss the boat  on getting its fair share of $633 million in new federal child care dollars unless city officials can reach an agreement with the provincial government.

"This is happening very quickly and plans are being formulated for the $633 million as we speak," said Cllr Roberts, co-chair of the City’s Joint Council on Child Care.

BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is conducting consultations around the province on how to spend the $633 million over the next five years. Meetings are  scheduled for November 28 in Vancouver.

Roberts said that the child care field, with its patchwork of jurisdictions and funding arrangements, demands a steep learning curve and significant opportunities could be lost if municipal officials have to take time to get up to speed.

Vancouver’s Joint Council on Child Care includes officials from city council, school board and park board as well as child care providers and advocacy groups.  During the past three years, the Joint Council surpassed its goal of increasing child care spaces in the city by five per cent, or 600 spaces. But it’s not just about the numbers.

Roberts said that the work of the Joint Council makes Vancouver well-positioned to take advantage of  new funding to implement a well-developed, comprehensive plan for child care hubs providing a full range of childhood service, including daycare and preschool, in each neighbourhood.

"We need experienced, proven advocates such as COPE school board candidate Sharon Gregson and myself who know how the systems work and who know what needs to be done," Roberts said.  "It’s important that the backbone of the child care hubs be licensed, non-profit centres that meet the needs of working families."

Gregson, a long-time advocate for child care, emphasized the importance of experience when dealing with senior levels of government.

"In BC we have a long history of cutbacks, broken promises and funds diverted away from childcare and into other programs," said Gregson. "It’s been a minefield and officials will have to know what they are doing to get the kind of childcare  we need."

COPE’s Roberts and Gregson promise fair share of federal bucks for child care.