Tbnewswatch Local News
Thursday July 2 2015
8:33 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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sweetazmaple says:
2/12/2014 10:47:11 AM
Reignmaker says:
All day kindergarten are jobs for ECE people. Please take your misinformation elsewhere. Also, you keep using "welfare" and "socialist". Those words don't mean what you think they mean.
2/11/2014 10:33:06 PM
S Duncan says:
The provincial liberals introduced full day kindergarten to help give the teachers union more money and help with the flooded teacher market by giving them welfa.. err I mean jobs.

now this is the after effects.

The city can now get out of this market because the province is paying for it in its own way.
2/11/2014 5:22:19 PM
humnchuck says:
Any factual basis for your reasoning here, or just a chance to slag the teachers?
2/11/2014 8:03:27 PM
S Duncan says:
if you haven't been asleep for the last 2 years the factual basis for my comment would be obvious to anybody who reads a paper.. any paper.
2/11/2014 11:11:33 PM
humnchuck says:
So then it's "if you don't know...or won't agree with me...then I won't tell you". Got it. Interesting perspective.

Full Day Kindergarten was implemented by the Liberal government on the recommendation of the Pascal Report. That report was commissioned by the Premier/province, not ETFO.: http://www.ontario.ca/education-and-training/early-learning-report

It would seem that ETFO was in favour of Pascal's suggestions on the condition that positions were staffed by qualified teachers. That's hardly "giving the union more money". It's taking a position on policy - that's what unions do.

There's quite a bit of debate all around about the value of the full day program. Maclean's, The Toronto Star, and other publications have all recently questioned whether there is a long-term value to it academically. A quick googling of "full day kindergarten report" or similar will find many articles on the matter.

A little less invective and a little more explanation might go a long way, Duncan.
2/12/2014 9:04:30 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
I agree with Councillor Johnson on this one. Day Cares, like golf (but unlike arenas, the fifty five plus centre, etc), can be run profitably by the private sector. The City shouldn't be providing services that compete with private industry. They should provide services that the private industry can't. If someday, arenas evolve as golf did, and private industry starts providing competing facilities, then the city should look at divesting themselves of arenas. But until then, arenas belong in the hands of the city. Same with any service. As it evolves over time, then the city should re-evaluate its position. Right now, in addition to Day Cares, they should also be looking at the Games Complex and the Thunder Bay Hydro Building. Both direct competition to private industry.
2/11/2014 4:12:08 PM
progress now says:
Interesting comment:

"...The City shouldn't be providing services that compete with private industry..."

Should we sell Thunder Bay telephone?
2/11/2014 4:29:34 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
Interesting counter-comment.

The city doesn't run TBayTel though. It owns it but doesn't run it. It's an investment in a company that will continue to operate in the private sector regardless of who owns it. The city has other equity investments as well. Granted, probably none of them are wholly owned, but they're equity investments nonetheless. TBayTel is an investment, not a service provided by the city.
2/11/2014 7:11:52 PM
progress now says:
Interesting distinction - even if, in my view, it walks a razors edge. This doesn't make your point wrong.

For myself, I think government can involve itself anywhere there is a public policy reason to do so. There are other considerations. Can you imagine city admin selling TBaytel? How long before they find pet projects to blow the whole wad on, then you are left without the asset and without the revenue stream. I would never sell Tbaytel because I could never trust the city to manage the money.

As far a daycare is concerned, there should as you say, be a demonstration that they are filling a necessary void, hence a public policy justification to continue the service.

If they can't provide that justification, then get out of the business.

2/11/2014 11:13:08 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
It's kind of refreshing to have a civil conversation on here without a bunch of name calling.
2/12/2014 11:02:14 AM
smarterthanyou says:
It's time for young people to get out of this retirement community. I'm sure the 55 plus centers loses a ton of money but who cares, right? Keep raising taxes and entertaining the wealthy and this city will be the best retirement community in all of Canada! Isn't that right Hobbs? Why young people voted for you is the biggest question!
2/11/2014 12:21:41 PM
conker2012 says:
This is a simple missed opportunity here. There are huge demands for daycare, and little supply left. When the daycare program is loosing money why not expand it to take on more kids to offset the loss?

Or on the other hand a million dollar loss is equal to $10 per person per year in taxes...... Having daycare is cheaper than having a parent stay home and be forced to live in DSSAB housing to make ends meet. I wonder what the cost of moving 20% of daycare families into DSSAB housing?

Leaders are so short sighted in this city that it is no wonder we have some of the worst long term planning of any Canadian city. Nobody ever thinks of the impact on other services when the cut a program or even add a program/project.

Here is a prime example of poor planning. The cities amalgamated 43 years ago and we still have not learned that we need to push all development within the existing city and towards each other, yet we continue to grow west driving up sprawl costs. FACEPALM!
2/11/2014 11:26:45 AM
Reignmaker says:
I know for a fact that the numbers in the article for Grace Remus' night program are wrong. I hope it is just a wording error and not the lie it looks like.

We don't need stupid art programs or event centers when the city looks like it won't support young couples with children. Saying that people should use the home stuff is ridiculous. There is no regulation of these sites other than for numbers. The city run ones are far more regulated.
Stop listening to an elderly woman about how child care services should run!
2/11/2014 10:27:22 AM
Jamie Smith says:
The number comes from the city's report but the wording was a little convoluted in our story. I changed it. Hope that clears it up. Thanks.
2/11/2014 3:40:40 PM
Reignmaker says:
Thank you for that. Now the question is the amount of children, allowed by legislation will be vastly different (for example, toddlers can only be five per worker. There are usually 3 workers. Thus the max would be hit) based upon the ages. Fifteen children does not account for the fact that these are unique children per day sometimes. So this program supports at least 15 families locally and could support far more.

The City Daycare system is one of the best in the Thunder Bay for play based learning. More needs to be done to advertise this. Stop saying the business is failing and then do nothing to help the word get out.

Instead of hiring to get a report saying how much it's going to cost, look at why the issues exist and how to change it. A business student from LU could do better with advertising city programs than people currently.

The problem is Daycare Centres aren't event centres or art that isn't necessary. So of course elected officials don't care about them.
2/11/2014 5:14:39 PM
nopatience4stupidity says:
Remove more child care options for parents and you'll see the increase of unlicenced, unregulated "daycares" popping up. Supply will fill the demand and with no "daycare" designation, there are no rules to be followed. Nobody is looking for a free ride, however rates have to be affordable or parents will have to go elsewhere - and hope their children stay safe.
2/11/2014 10:10:50 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
Or maybe it will create an opportunity for private enterprise to create a legal for-profit entity.

2/11/2014 4:09:07 PM
Hey says:
Unfortunately most daycares have lost significant funding from the government to the school boards to run their full day daycare (kindergarten) program, which has certainly required operators and boards to adjust operations of their own daycares. This does not seem to be the case with city run operations as they are projected to lose upwards of $3250 a day. How is it that private and nonprofits can remain open under these conditions and a city tax supported one can lose so much? At the city council meeting before where this issue was brought up it was reported by a representative that "they were exploring every option" to deal with this deficit, but no solutions or suggestions were brought forward, just a vague statement. And no administrator or manager even showed up to answer questions, just a representative. The writing is on the wall, cut costs or get out of the business. Others will fill the void.
2/11/2014 10:03:26 AM
SadButTrue says:
Could be that the city daycare workers are paid the wages a day care worker should make and the private enterprises are paying a much lower wage. Purely speculative on my part.
2/11/2014 11:50:23 AM
Magrat says:
The city golf courses are daily money losers along with those indoor rinks that are half booked. The city needs to reduce administration that writes reports or spends on consultants to write recommendations that are useless and have common sense answers.
2/11/2014 8:53:54 AM
fastball says:
Let the city keep ONE municipal golf course...but run it well. Let private enterprise buy up the others.
Let's look at ALL the places the city is losing tons of money - and then make a decision on what should be kept, what should be scrapped or farmed out. Yes, everything has an operating cost of some kind - but are there some places that we take care of that generate NO revenue for the city at all?
2/11/2014 10:26:23 AM
smartguy83 says:
Seems untrue that the indoor rinks do poorly. The Garden's, yes. Tournament Centre, maybe. The rest I would assume do relatively well.

Regardless the City isn't in the business of making money. They provide a service. Certain services (ie/ promoting health, helping residents) are common to see "loses" which are subsidized by taxes.
2/11/2014 11:41:51 AM
Dave78 says:
I don't know whether the city should be in the daycare business but I'm still having a hard time understanding how the city is losing money at operating daycare centres. The demand for daycare spots far outweighs the supply. This was confirmed by Mayor Hobbs at last night's council meeting when he stated that since the city began discussing getting out of the daycare business he has been "bombarded" with emails from parents who can't get their kids into a daycare now when the 4 city daycares are still operating.

Secondly, daycare is not cheap. If I remember from a few years ago I paid around $1100 per month for my two kids . And, for the excellent work they do, the Early Childhood Educators working in daycares are grossly underpaid.

In summary: Demand exceeds supply. Customers will pay significant money for the service and labour costs are relatively low yet we can't even break even while private daycare centres are able to make a profit.

Something seems odd with all of this
2/11/2014 8:49:23 AM
REG says:
Why is it unacceptable for the city to lose money in some areas but it's ok in others. If you want to save money than get rid of all city run operations not a few that sound good.I wonder if the 55 plus facilities are making money or even breaking even.You people who have these areas you don't like better think it over because you favorite spot may be next to go. All or none not just a few.
2/11/2014 7:55:16 AM
festus says:
The simple fact is if daycare is not making money than you need to cut back on number of daycare centers or all of them.
2/11/2014 6:13:45 AM
unheard says:
but it is ok to lose 1 million a year on this event centre, good priorities
vote these people out
2/11/2014 12:33:12 AM
Watchful says:
We should not be in daycare, golf, hockey etc. slowly merge the daycare to private without hurting families that are presently using them. Then get rid of the city run golf courses and all hockey/sports facilities. These should all be private
2/10/2014 11:49:18 PM
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