Having had four kids as a working mother while struggling to finish university, Sharon Gregson knows first-hand “there aren’t enough quality childcare spaces for children, fees are too high for many families, and wages of early childhood educators are below a living wage.”
Since she was a young single mom in the late 80s, Sharon Gregson has been a longstanding childcare advocate, focused on women’s and children’s rights, and the need for a high quality and affordable childcare system in Canada.
“Access to quality childcare shouldn’t be a matter of luck!”
Today, she operates 14 licensed childcare programs in East Vancouver and every day she sees the stress that mothers are under. “There’s a childcare crisis in British Columbia and across most of Canada.” High quality childcare is becoming more and more elitist, giving those lucky children the advantages that too many families cannot afford. “Access to quality childcare shouldn’t be a matter of luck!”
Sharon believes “it’s a woman’s right to access these services. Women won’t have full equality in our society until we have access to quality affordable childcare. The same way families have access to elementary schools for their children and high schools for their youth, I believe parents should also have that kind of accessibility to early childhood education. It’s a no-brainer!”
Campaigning for Change
Since 2011, Sharon and her colleagues at the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (CCCABC) have been working on developing a $10 a day childcare plan. Their vision is for all children to have access to high quality early care and learning experiences, for women not to have to worry about access to childcare while they go to work or school, and for early childhood educators to be well educated, well compensated, and well respected for the important work they do.
“Our campaign has a great deal of public visibility and we’ve put a lot of pressure on politicians both in government and in the opposition. We’re definitely making an impact as we see the government starting to tweak their policy around the edges to address affordability and accessibility.” Government has introduced the Single Parent Employment Initiative, put new funding into creating new childcare spaces, and introduced some tax credits. In Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first budget, $500 million was allocated to childcare across the country. Sharon says, “It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a good first step.”
The $10aDay campaign’s success continues to grow. More than two million supporters are counted on their endorsement list, and they have more than 10,000 signatures endorsing their $10aDay plan. They envision buy-in from British Columbians and childcare professionals continuing to grow, making it advantageous to politicians to embrace and implement the plan. It’s likely to be a key issue in the upcoming Provincial election in BC, but Sharon and her colleagues aren’t naïve to the challenges of implementation: Their plan considers a ten-year rollout.
When not advocating for the CCCABC, Sharon enjoys a more controversial pastime: She’s an internationally ranked sharp-shooter. She also happily confesses she has a tattooed body suit!”
Ask her for a message for the next generation, and she quotes the inimitable Frank Zappa: “If you want something different, you must do something differently.” Sharon says the quote is a mantra she uses for herself. We suspect it’s also giving shape to her important work as an impressive advocate for children and women.
Sharon’s passionate commitment to her work, her fellow parents, and children across British Columbia is one of the many stories that will inspire attendees at Social Change Institute, June 15 – 19 at Hollyhock.