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Tbnewswatch Local News
Friday August 28 2015
3:28 AM EDT
2014-02-10 at 22:30

Daycare debate

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

The fate of the city's daycares will be decided in the fall.

A report to city council Monday night estimates that the city will lose around $3,250 everyday this year through its four child care centres. That's up from $2,750 last year.

The city operates around 15 per cent, or 382, of the 2,470 licensed spaces in Thunder Bay. The repot states that scheduling has put many families in need of care on waitlists in the city though. Irregular hours or days make it hard for those families to find spaces despite the amount that are out there.

Council voted to have administration look into how it can cut costs, a report expected to come back in September, but not before debating whether the city should be in the business at all.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson said the expected $774,000 daycare centres will cost the city this year isn't something that taxpayers should pay for. With around six per cent of Ontario cities in the business and more pulling out every year, it's time Thunder Bay did the same.

"If Kenora can do it so can do this so can Thunder Bay," she said.

The report states that scheduling has put many families in need of care on waitlists in the city though. Irregular hours or days make it hard for those families to find spaces despite the amount that are out there. Coun. Andrew Foulds said he hopes that administration looks into changing the system to meet the needs of families rather than just looking for ways to save money.

"The model may have to change but the need for childcare is still there,” he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he doesn't think the city should be in the daycare business but since it already is now is not the time to get out. The report needs to study the economic impact on the 278 families who use it. Those parents go to school, have jobs and spend money on goods and services in Thunder Bay. If they can't find daycare without the city, parents might have to quit school or jobs in order to stay home with their children.

"What's going to happen to those families?" he said. 

Also Monday, council voted to delay a decision on the Grace Remus Pilot Program that would have ended its extended hours by June. Started  in 2009, the program runs from 6:45 p.m. Until 2 a.m. to help parents who work night shifts. But with only around 15 children attending the program each night, it will cost the city around $91,837 this year.

But councillors didn't feel they had enough information to make a decision. No other program in the city operates until that late in the evening. Although families hadn't been told that the program might be ending, administration said that would be part of the transition plan.

Coun. Mark Bentz said more would need to be done.

“I can't in good faith cut a program when I know there's nowhere for these people to go,” he said.

A report will come back to council next month. But since the program's deletion was already in the proposed 2014 budget, the city will have to add $50,000 when it resumes budget meetings Tuesday.


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