Day-care bill comes amid fears of big-box takeover

Legislation from the NDP will attempt to block foreign-owned big-box day care from setting up in Canada, and will push for a nation-wide framework to regulate federal funding for the industry.

The private member’s bill will be debated in the House of Commons today.

The opposition parties have united in support of Bill C-303, the Early Learning and Child Care Act, which sets out terms for “accessible, universal and high-quality early-learning and child-care programs and services.” However, the Conservatives have vowed not to pass it into law.

The legislation would also regulate how federal funds are transferred to provinces or groups in support of child care, and protect private, for-profit day-care centres from foreign takeover, according to its supporters.

It comes as the debate over so-called big-box day care heats up amid attempts by a massive Australian child-care provider to bring its business model to Canada…

Chow told CTV’s Canada AM that research in Australia has shown the $2.2-billion company charges higher user fees and provides lower quality of services.

“Our research shows that initially, the prices for the parents are low, and then after a while, once they have the domination of the certain area, then the fees goes up,” Chow said.

She said the bill to be debated today would establish a national legislative framwork “for a universally-available, high-quality, affordable child care system across Canada.”

Such a system, she said, would allow working families to continue to work, could help free single mothers from a cycle of poverty and address child poverty by ensuring they eat quality meals, something that could also stimulate learning.

“So it’s time that Canada have a national child-care legislation so that we can embed and enshrine the legislation into the House of Commons as a law just like the Canada Health Act,” Chow said.

Support for 123

Kathy Graham, of the Association of Daycare Operators of Ontario, said the debate over large-scale day-care operations is not black and white.

Even the term “big-box day care,” she told Canada AM, has been used as a scare tactic.

“I think that’s been a phrase that has been coined to scare families, to scare Canadians, when in fact 123 Busy Beavers, if we’re going to dwell on them, are actually purchasing private entrepreneur centres that are, in general, 60-space day cares, 64-space day cares, 24-space day cares,” she said.

“If we want to talk about Wal-Mart, this is by no means a comparison.”

Bill C-303, she said, seems designed to “get rid of the private entrepreneur who has gone out and created programs,” and could eventually mean less flexibility and accessibility for parents, especially in rural and remote areas where private day care has filled the gap,” Graham said.

“We all need to be partners in this, and excluding parent options and decreasing accessibility is clearly not something that we should be wanting to do in this country,” she added.