Childcare woes go national

Amanda Burnett is an average Penticton mother of two, currently on maternity leave, but her advocacy for parents desperately seeking childcare in a city starved of options has caught national attention. 

Burnett has been gathering stories from women all around the Okanagan who are struggling to find childcare, and are forced to give up jobs to stay home with their children. She created the "Waitlisted Project" Facebook page to share those struggles with other mothers, and politicians have begun taking note.

Member of Parliament for the South Okanagan Richard Cannings mentioned Burnett by name in the House of Commons Friday, asking the federal government to step up and help mothers like her get childcare so they can rejoin the workforce when they want to. 

"Amanda from Penticton has found that the money she gets from the Canada child benefit is useless, as there are no childcare spaces for her daughter," Cannings said. "The child benefit is entirely inadequate for covering childcare costs and does not open up any new spaces. This is unacceptable."

Burnett says that while she may not agree with the word choice of "useless," since every little bit of money helps, she is thrilled to see the concerns she shares with countless other Okanagan women are being addressed on a political level. 

"I feel really proud of the work that I've done but also proud of the women that have come forward to share their stories to be part of the movement," Burnett said. "It's really empowering."

Burnett is halfway through her maternity leave and still has no childcare in place for her daughter in the fall despite constant calls and applications, and has been told that there is no room at the daycare her older son already attends.

The current Canada Child Benefit, a flagship program of the Liberal government, gives eligible families $6,496 per year, or $541.33 per month, for each child under the age of six. Burnett says that fails to address the real issue: There are not enough spaces for the families who need them.

"You could give me a million dollars, but [my daughter] is still 75th on the waitlist," Burnett said. "So it's about improving the whole system, and raising the whole system up, because it's something that's been neglected for years and years."

Burnett plans to take her concerns to all levels of government, including Penticton city council later this month.

Chelsea Powrie

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