An Urban Solution for Daycare

An Urban Solution for Daycare

When I was Mayor of Vancouver I heard constantly from stressed-out parents Downtown who could not find daycare for their children. Many of them were highly educated, more than full-time employed in the exciting innovative economy of rapidly growing companies. They were especially looking for enriched experiences that would introduce their children to culture and arts and initiate them into subjects that would be important to their later education. And they wanted these in an environmentally responsible urban setting.

I was dismayed to find that attempts to create high-quality daycare in the downtown were being rejected because of bureaucratic rules that had been written by people deeply immersed in the culture of sprawl and environmental waste. For example, one rule made it mandatory that children were not allowed to use stairs or elevators to get to their outdoor play area. This kind of rule could only be made by someone committed to the culture of sprawl and had clearly not spent much time in a city.

As Mayor I was able to overturn this rule but my recent campaign efforts to reach out to citizens of Vancouver-False Creek have led me to realize that sprawl culture was more deeply embedded in the bureaucracy than could be overcome by just changing this one rule. I have now discovered another rule that prevents daycares from being established in the Downtown. The provincial health authorities require that every daycare has 75 ft.² of outdoor play space for every child whether they are outdoors or not. They do not allow scheduling of outdoor play space. When you get to a decent size of daycare that can support good quality teachers in the Downtown area it becomes impossible to actually find spaces of this size. Because the cost of land is so high in the Downtown area, any daycare that could actually meet this requirement would be unaffordable to many parents. Once again, rules promulgated by people deeply immersed in sprawl culture and insensitive to urban values, have cost family life in downtown Vancouver dearly.

After almost 2 years of struggling to open a daycare in the Downtown, one particularly outstanding operator gave up. This is a company that provides a rich experience for children under five years old who are introduced to reading and math through art and who learn drama and yoga among other interesting subjects. They have an in-house chef who gets kids excited about healthy food. Teachers in the program are provided an extra year of training. Do our children need to be protected from this?

We need to remove the rules that prevent daycares from the Downtown and we need to recruit people not committed to sprawl culture to be responsible for approvals. People who live in the Vancouver-False Creek riding create less than 20% of the greenhouse gases and take less than 10% of the land required by the average Canadian. They are committed to efficient use of space and the wasteful rules of sprawl culture have no place in their Downtown neighbourhoods.

This situation reminds me of the efforts of people in the 1970s to build denser neighbourhoods around False Creek. A developer had to bring in an expert from San Francisco to convince government officials here that children could in fact live safely in something other than a single detached house.

It is interesting for me to speak with highly educated, very involved and concerned parents who are extremely knowledgeable about the needs of children. They are being “protected” by government officials with rules that are actually harming them and their children.

The parents of this riding need daycare and they need it now. We need a new urban approach to daycare and we need the rules of sprawl culture removed. The environmental degradation of our region and our planet must lead us to do everything we can to make urban living desirable for young families. Children should have the opportunity to live in culturally rich and vibrant communities like Vancouver False Creek. Yes they can take an elevator to get to their outdoor play area. And if day care operators can reduce costs to parents by scheduling their outdoor playtime and getting more efficient use of space then let’s do it.

If elected I will commit to working for a complete revamping of the rules of sprawl culture that are harming our quality of life and have no place in an urban setting. Let’s allow high-quality daycares to proliferate in the Downtown so that families and their children will be able to prosper in an urban setting.


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