Ontario moves to toughen up daycare rules
The province is tightening rules regulating unlicensed daycares and getting tougher with those who break the law.
The new rules could be seen as good news for parents who rely on daycare.
Jason Greer depends on a home daycare to watch his two-year-old daughter Addison while he’s at work. He’s changed daycare providers before and says finding a trusted one can be a challenge.
“I'm looking for references and the next thing is I want to see the facility, make sure it’s clean, neat, and safe for my daughter,” he says.
Those are top priorities for many parents who rely on daycare providers and today the Ontario government announced new legislation: overhauling the province’s daycare system to improve safety.
“The legislation that regulates the child care sector hasn't changed fundamentally since the 1980s,” says MPP and Minister of Education Liz Sandals.
The proposed legislation includes the ability to close a centre immediately if a child is at risk; hefty fines up to $100,000 per infraction; private daycares with more than five children under the age of four to be licensed; and increasing the number of children licenced centres can care for to six from five.
The hope is that this will create more spaces and have private daycare providers licence their operations.
Jackie Dubeau is a licensed daycare provider and says these changes are necessary.
“Everyone needs to be on the same page. I know what I have to follow and those rules are there for a reason and it's important that other people follow because safety is the most important thing,” she says.
Julia Spray runs a private, unlicensed daycare in Barrie and cares for a maximum of five children – a requirement under these new rules.
Spray supports the legislation, especially the creation of a team to investigate complaints and an online database parents can access to review any complaints made to the province about daycare providers.
“I think before there've been a lot of complaints and nobody was really looking into them and hopefully the heftier fines will make people consider if they are doing it properly,” she says.
These new rules come after three children died at unlicensed daycares in recent months, including a two-year-old who died in Vaughan.
The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care wants every provider to be licenced but calls the new rules a big improvement.
“It's still a complaint-driven system but this is a much tougher atmosphere for unlicensed child care and they're going have to follow the rules,” says Andrea Calver with the coalition.
Greer says the changes will provide parents with reassurance their children are safe.
“It gives a big sense of relief knowing the people are doing what’s best for my daughter,” he says.
There are currently more than 5,000 licensed daycare providers across Ontario and the province says these new rules will increase that by at least 6,000 spots.