Children’s care not for sale

The Toronto Star
Letters —┬áre: ‘Big-box’ daycare coming to Canada

Two years ago, an Australian child-care expert came to Canada to warn us about big-box centres, based on that country’s experience with corporate child care. Australia’s situation is characterized by parents paying high fees of $500 per week, poor access if you live outside of big cities or have children with additional needs, and constant pressure by corporate child-care providers to lower standards. Is this what we want for Canada’s children?

We do have a remedy on the horizon in Bill C-303: the Early Learning and Child Care Act. This legislation, which is slated for third reading this fall, would only permit the non-profit sector to expand – stopping big-box corporate child care in its tracks.

If this legislation doesn’t pass, we will be stuck with child care that is characterized by high fees, inaccessibility and poor quality. And shareholders will be making huge profits from our tax dollars.

Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director, Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, Toronto


Your important article on big-box daycare quotes a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services as saying there will be no capital grants for for-profit centres. Unfortunately, this completely misses the point. The main issue is not capital grants, but operating and parent fee subsidies for child-care spaces.

The business of ABC Learning Centres is not early childhood learning; it is subsidy harvesting. This multinational corporation is after the steady stream of profit that comes from the difference between the cost of offering low- quality services and the amount of the ongoing government subsidy.

If the Ontario government hopes to prevent Big Box child care from taking over the province’s child care system, it must end operating subsidies to commercial child-care services, with grandparenting for existing owner-delivered services.

Barbara Cameron, Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, York University, Toronto


If big chains get a larger foothold in our city, we will inevitably be pressed to lower quality standards and reduce the already low salaries and benefits for child-care staff. Recent revelations about inferior care in the predominantly for-profit nursing-home sector in Ontario should serve as a wake- up call when it comes to child care.

In Toronto, we have grandparented existing commercial child care and will only expand in the public and non-profit sectors. The province should require all municipalities to do the same. However, the policy must be supported by new funding to encourage development of non-profit child care.

Janet Davis, Councillor, Beaches-East York, Toronto


It is a well-known fact that staff costs represent 80 to 85 per cent of running a child-care centre. The other 15 to 20 per cent is used for food, supplies, rent and equipment. So where can the profit be made? It can only occur if operators drive down wages or drive up fees.

The Ontario government can change the law to prohibit future licensing of commercial child-care operations. Legislative change takes time, but for now, the government can place a moratorium on issuing new licences.

Sue Colley, Toronto


It is common business knowledge that everything has a price, yet it is shocking to know that our children are now for sale. Daycare in Ontario is going private, and who is going to benefit? It certainly won’t be the children, if the goal is profit over care and quality. Big-box stores are great for everything from clothing to lumber, yet children must not be part of this philosophy.

Duane Margolese, Thornhill