How intense pressure from for-profit daycares has transformed Ontario’s rollout of $10-a-day child care — and sparked a political standoff
A young mother and her daughter, who were cared for at a for-profit daycare centre in Ajax, Ont., in 2005.The child cared for in this centre died, after attending for four to five months.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
May 19, 2018 – 7:00 PM
The story of the Ontario government’s child care system — which includes for-profit chains — is becoming increasingly familiar.
Over the past four decades, a steady drumbeat of stories have emerged about children who died. In some cases, their deaths were caused by abuse or neglect, and in others, by an overdose of drugs.
The problems facing Ontario’s child care system got a big assist from a single figure: the child-labor law passed by the NDP in 1984. It gave the province the power to compel parents to provide child care — and to shut down for-profit daycares and other non-licensed places until parents paid for the time they used.
The law was passed at a time when a child was considered to be a child for the day, rather than a person with a brain and a heart, said John Gerretsen — a Labour Department official who headed the team that wrote the new law.
“This law was basically saying that, if people couldn’t provide a home for their child, they had to start providing child care for their child,” Gerretsen told reporters in a May 15 interview.
The law, which was originally called “the care of children,” is still in effect today in both the federal and provincial child care systems.
But Ontario is not alone in struggling with this problem. Child care advocates say there are also other provinces that have either no such laws, or their laws are vague and their rules are weak — such as the rules that apply to for-profit child care centres.
The government says it wants to make it easier. Last month, before the May 22 deadline to pay for child care, it announced it was introducing a new bill to change the way it enforces its rules. It did not detail how.
The federal government’s child care legislation is also complicated.