Ontario to scrap wait list fees for child care as of Sept. 1

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WATCH: Tue, Aug 2: Wait list fees for child care in Ontario will be banned but advocates say they are just a “symptom of a larger problem” involving the number of spaces available. Mark McAllister reports – Aug 2, 2016

TORONTO – Day care operators in Ontario will no longer be allowed to charge parents a fee, or demand a deposit, to put a child on a waiting list, as of Sept. 1.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced the ban Tuesday on wait list fees by all licensed child care centres and home child care agencies.

Hunter said the government clearly heard parents’ objections to the charges during public consultations that were held between May and July.

“We know that parents and children shouldn’t be burdened with any undue hardships, especially when they’re looking for child care to give their children the best possible start that they need to succeed,” she said. “Without a doubt parents have been clear: they want this unfair practice to stop.”

Parents were charged as little as $10 or as much as $200 by some day care operators to put their child’s name on a waiting list, and some families applied to several centres in hopes of getting a coveted space.

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Ontario will become the first province in Canada to ban the wait list fees for child care, said Hunter.

“Parents are frustrated, and they feel it takes advantage of them when they’re only trying to do what’s best for their children,” she said. “We share parents’ concern over wait list fees, and we have listened to families on this issue.”

The YMCA, the largest provider of non-profit child care in Ontario, welcomed the ban on wait list fees.

“This will reduce the financial burden faced by many families when enrolling their children into child care,” said YMCA spokeswoman Linda Cottes.

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Childcare Canada said it was “extremely supportive” of the Ontario regulation to ban wait list fees.

The New Democrats said they first brought in a private member’s bill to ban wait list fees, which they call insulting to parents searching for affordable day care.

“I’m glad that after more than a decade in government the Liberals are finally listening to parents on this issue and following the lead of the NDP,” said deputy NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. “There is more to do, like creating more affordable childcare spaces so moms and dads don’t face these wait lists in the first place.”

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Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said parents should not have to pay for the privilege for putting their child’s name on a waiting list, and he applauded the Liberals for following the NDP’s lead to ban the fees.

“This wait list information will help to show parents the effects the government’s misguided legislation has had,” Brown said in a release.

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As part of the regulator changes announced by Hunter, child care providers have until Jan. 1 to develop a public wait list policy that clearly explains how children on the list are offered admission.

“The amendments also require that providers make a child’s position on the wait list available to parents, while ensuring that personal information about others on the wait list is not shared,” she said.

Ontario spends over $1 billion a year on child care, and has nearly 351,000 licensed child care spaces.