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Child-care centre eyed for B.C. legislature grounds

No firm location yet; focus will be on needs of legislative assembly and caucus staff.

Cheerful voices of youngsters could be ringing out on the grounds of B.C.’s legislature under a proposal to build a child-care centre, possibly near the parking lot for MLAs at Government and Superior streets.

The legislative assembly administration is in the planning phase of the project which is focused on the child-care needs of legislative assembly staff and caucus staff, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, clerk of the legislative assembly, said Thursday.

A request for proposals has been issued seeking a not-for-profit body to provide child care in the centre. The closing date for submissions is Oct. 5.

If all goes smoothly, the employer-sponsored facility would open in early 2025.

B.C. would not be the first legislature to offer child care. On Sept. 13, the National Assembly of Quebec announced it had opened a child-care centre, accepting the first children the previous week.

“Many people have long wanted a daycare to be set up in Parliament,” said Nathalie Roy, president of the National Assembly. It will help facilitate a work-life balance and will allow more young people and women to get involved in politics, she said.

The facility is open to parliamentarians, political staff and staff of the national assembly.

Victoria recently approved changes to land-use rules to encourage more child-care facilities to open at a time when there is a shortage.

Legislative assembly administration will work on its proposal with the potential operator, who will be providing their expertise during planning and design stages, Ryan-Lloyd said.

It is expected that the licensed centre would care for a total of 37 children. It would allow for 12 children under 36 months old, and 25 children 30 months to school age.

The centre would be a one-storey modular structure with a fenced outdoor play area.

About 330 staff members work within the legislative assembly administration and about another 250 staff are on site, including caucus employees, Ryan-Lloyd said.

The proposal grew out of the idea of addressing the needs of employees.

“The legislative assembly administration is committed to providing a supportive work environment for our staff and a positive relationship with the Victoria community,” she said.

A backgrounder document said that a key principle would be to give priority to child-care needs of caucus and legislative assembly staff over MLAs.

About 20 to 25 per cent of children would be from the local community, Ryan-Lloyd said.

The legislative assembly management committee approved developing a concept plan in December.

The proposal calls for the centre to be open weekdays and likely have extended hours when the house is sitting and staff work late.

Plans call for an initial five-year lease, with the possibility of a subsequent five-year lease. The intent is to have the centre running for at least 15 years.

It is too soon to know the cost of developing the centre, Ryan-Lloyd said.

The legislative assembly would apply to the ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund for money to build the centre and then seek approval from the legislative assembly management committee.

Without those approvals, the legislative assembly has the right to cancel the project.

Any costs to outfit the centre will be the operator’s responsibility, the request for proposals says.

The fee for the operator to occupy and use the centre will be $1 per year, including utilities.

The request for proposals notes that occasionally there will be demonstrations, as well as special events on the legislative grounds, typically limited to the front lawn. “Due to the nature of the Legislative Assembly and the location, there are armed and unarmed protective services staff from the Legislative Assembly on the legislative grounds.”

The site’s back lawn is a popular recreational area and will remain accessible to the public, the request says.

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