Min­is­ter de­fends new bill to boost child-care spa­ces

Waterloo Region Record - - 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.

The new leg­is­la­tion, he said, would be an im­prove­ment for all in­volved. “This is some­thing that’s not go­ing to cost govern­ment any­thing but it’s go­ing to cre­ate much needed spa­ces in the child-care sec­tor,” he said. “It’s go­ing to al­low ... fam­i­lies who are hav­ing chil­dren the abil­ity to get back to work ear­lier.”

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

NDP MP Cather­ine Fife said the leg­is­la­tion, known as Bill 66, would lead to less over­sight, which would lead to prob­lems.

“What Bill 66 does is put the safety of chil­dren at risk,” she said. “It is not in any way shape or form a child-care strat­egy.”

Fife said the changes will also do lit­tle to ad­dress the ur­gent need for more child-care spa­ces.

“If you can find qual­ity, af­ford­able child care in ... On­tario you have won the lot­tery,” she said.

Lib­eral leg­is­la­tor Mitzie Hunter called the govern­ment’s changes “reck­less” and said the move has more to do with pol­i­tics than ad­dress­ing the des­per­ate need for child-care spa­ces.

She urged the govern­ment to take more time to con­sult with par­ents and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.

“It’s re­ally the rush to undo what this govern­ment per­ceives as a Lib­eral change,” she said. “They want to wipe that away. But that’s af­fect­ing the lives of many peo­ple.”

Dur­ing the spring elec­tion, the Tories promised they would cover up to $6,750 of child-care costs for On­tario fam­i­lies through a tax re­bate pro­gram but they have yet to make good on that pledge.

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