Minister de­fends new bill to boost child-care spa­ces

The Hamilton Spectator - - Canada & World - SHAWN JEF­FORDS

TORONTO — Loos­en­ing rules to in­crease the num­ber of young chil­dren al­lowed in day­cares will cre­ate more af­ford­able child-care spa­ces, On­tario’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment minister said Fri­day, dis­miss­ing con­cerns that re­forms con­tained in new leg­is­la­tion could put kids at risk.

Todd Smith said the pro­posed changes in a bill in­tro­duced by the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives this week will give par­ents more op­tions and help them get back into the work­force faster.

The bill, if passed, will al­low up to three chil­dren un­der the age of two in an in-home day­care. Cur­rently only two young chil­dren are al­lowed in such set­tings.

The changes would also al­low two child-care providers to look af­ter six in­fants at a time, an in­crease from four in­fants cur­rently al­lowed. They would also mean providers no longer have to count their own chil­dren to­ward the to­tal num­ber of kids in their care af­ter their child turns four.

In 2014, fol­low­ing sev­eral day­care deaths, the pre­vi­ous Liberal gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced changes that capped the num­ber of chil­dren in day­care set­tings. Smith said that hurt ac­cess to care.

“I think there was a knee-jerk de­ci­sion that was made a num­ber of years ago to re­duce the num­ber of spa­ces,” he said. “It wasn’t the right de­ci­sion for the peo­ple of On­tario.”

The new leg­is­la­tion, he said, would be an im­prove­ment for all in­volved.

Crit­ics, how­ever, said they were con­cerned chang­ing the day­care ra­tios would put younger chil­dren who need greater lev­els of su­per­vi­sion at risk.

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