Conversation & Collaboration: Engaging with the BC’s social care ministries

Last week’s ‘Building on Success’ conference was a big success. Over two days, The Federation and MCFD brought together practitioners and leaders from across the province—and across the sector—to examine and explore some of the promising practices emerging in BC’s child, family, and community service.

Conference presentations, recordings, and slide decks are being uploaded to our website this week. Revisit your favourite talks or see what was covered if you were unable to make it in-person last week. And if you were at the conference, please give us your feedback so we can continue to improve these events and give you—our members—the kind of learning, practicing, and networking opportunities you want most.

Today, however, I would like to share with members some noteworthy developments from The Federation’s October General Meeting. We were lucky to have three different government ministers join us to talk about the issues at the top of their to-do lists and how they plan to approach them.

Honourable Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care

Minister Chen made clear that her team is trying hard to create a childcare strategy for BC that is long-term, sustainable, and able to offer equal access to quality childcare options for all the people of BC. She explained that her mandate also includes a focus on wages and training for childcare workers. Federation members took the opportunity to express their support for increased wages while noting that compensation is an issue that needs to be addressed across the entire sector.

For anyone who is interested, Minister Chen will be hosting a series of consultations on child care over the coming months. For more information, you can contact Minister Chen.

Honourable Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Minister Simpson opened by explaining the change of focus and direction within the ministry made apparent by the change in name. One of the minister’s main priorities is reducing poverty and he announced that he will be setting up an advisory committee by the end of the month to advise his ministry’s poverty reduction efforts.

Minister Simpson also announced that a provincial poverty reduction strategy will be released in the spring of 2018 which will map the way forward while enabling new legislation and regulations to jump-start the process. The strategy will also include a provincial homelessness count, a dedicated provincial homelessness action plan, and a basic income pilot project.

For employment programs, the Minister explained that his mandate will require thinking about how the government might engage differently. The members present loudly applauded Minister Simpson’s plans to change the RFP process (after negotiations with Ottawa are complete) and he promised to have “a conversation about covering core costs when you’re delivering services.”

In our meetings with the Minister earlier this year, he spoke about the need to look at how the government deals with contracted services and we will continue to work with his team on these efforts.

Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Minister Farnworth and his government know very well that: “for too long, people and families have been left behind” and he admitted in his opening that it will take time to fix the problems that his government inherited. However, his key priority is to improve the delivery of services that people count on. Here too, this will involve revisiting contracting and funding processes (especially in terms of admin and core costs).

Minister Farnworth’s to-do list included strengthening supports and services to women (and others) fleeing abuse across the province, expanding anti-gang programs and funding, as well as restorative justice initiatives. His ministry is also very focused on advancing opportunities for reconciliation across the province and implementing the calls to action within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

General Meeting Recap and Q&A

Overall, the tone of the presentations was very different to what we have become used to over the past years. The Ministers were applauded for their goals and their approaches to those goals and they were each eager and engaged when members raised pointed questions.

Rest assured that your Federation Board members and I will continue to meet with these and other social care ministers over the coming months. We will also be inviting other Ministers to upcoming general meetings in order to strengthen our relationship with this new government and to give members direct access to key decision makers.

Later today (Thursday, October 19) I will be hosting a General Meeting recap webinar along with Federation President, David Young. We will provide an update on Federation activities, answer questions, and review the speeches and talking points made by the ministers and other presenters. There will also be time for Q&A at the end of the webinar. Details and login information have been emailed to Federation members.

For those that can’t make it, a recording of the webinar will be made available on The Federation website next week. For questions about the webinar, please contact Tisha at The Federation office.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director