QUEBEC CITY – Finding a $7-a-day daycare spot these days can feel like winning the lottery. Governments have tried to expand the system, but money is hard to find.
“Right now the finances are very tight,” said Quebec’s Family Minister, Francine Charbonneau.
Massive investments are impossible, so the minister is looking at ways to make the daycare network more efficient. She said last year, more than 10 million hours of daycare services were unused. That’s $280-million wasted on what she calls “ghost places.”
“The places that we have need to be occupied by children — not by space— by children,” Charbonneau said.
Bill 27 would penalize parents and daycares who “hog” places by fining them up to $4,000.
“Targeting the parents is not the solution because the state of the network for the moment pushes parents, pushes childcare services to do things that they wouldn’t do if they had access to a place,” UQAM Didactics Professor Lise Lemay told the minister.
“Every child has the right to go to kindergarten, why is it different for daycare? What’s the difference?” asked Jeff Begley from the Federation of Health & Social Services.
As committee hearings get underway, the minister is asking for ideas on how to do more with less. One avenue is to split a spot into two or three to accommodate part-timers. Another one is to convert existing private daycare spots into subsidized ones.
“There are plenty of spots available in all regions of Quebec,” said Private Daycare Association President Marie-Claude Collin.
“It’s just that parents want to pay $7 a day.”
Parents also want quality, argued UQAM professor Nathalie Bigras. She said research showed children in a CPE are two-and-a-half times less likely to develop problems than children in private daycares.
“It’s in CPEs that we get the better development for children.”
Committee hearings continue next week. Charbonneau indicated Friday she could lower fines.