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The parents and staff of the McGill Child Care Centre have written an open letter to the minister of Employment, Social Solidarity and Family Welfare. The letter expressed their concerns with new regulations to govern Quebec's subsidized daycare programs in Bill 32 unveiled by Claude Béchard in November.
Among the changes are a higher rate of seven dollars a day from five dollars per child.
"The higher fees will mean an increase in the parents' costs, and the cuts in subsidy will force us to adjust. We'll need to consider changes to programs," said Robert Platt, the chair of the board of directors of the McGill daycare.
The 106 charges of the daycare are the children of staff, faculty and students. This latter group will be especially hard hit by the increase in the daily fee, as many of them are living on fixed incomes or loans.
The increase in fees will likely translate into a decrease in government subsidies to the daycare, which is already coping with a 2.6 percent reduction in monies received from the province.
Lawrence Depoe, the director of the McGill Child Care Centre, and president of the Daycare Directors Association of Quebec, said that the funding for the system works much the same way as tuition.
"When they raise the fees, they actually decrease the grants that come to us, so it doesn't result in net increase in revenue for the daycare centres," he said.
"At best, revenues remain frozen, and at worst we'll have another 2.6 percent cut next year."
Depoe said that the government has pledged to put the diverted monies into more daycare centres, which he would be happy to see.
Of even greater concern to the McGill daycare in particular is a proposed attendance requirement. The government has proposed that daycares be required to maintain a 90 percent attendance rate, as well as be open a minimum number of days. As the daycare here follows the same schedule as the university, they are closed more days than most private institutions. Because of statutory holidays and parental vacation time, "Parents would have more days off than their children would be allowed to have."
The attendance requirement would force daycares to require children to be at the daycare even while they are sick, in order to keep their subsidies.
All of these are problems that Depoe believes can be solved. What he finds particularly distressing is the manner in which the new regulations were introduced.
"You would hope that before they embark on major shifts in philosophy, they talk to the people are experiencing and living those changes," he said.
"The minister held two days of hearings by invitation. Even in that context the vast majority of people who spoke were opposed to these changes — and then they went ahead and did it."
Most of the parents and staff of the daycare have signed the open letter to the minister. They join 70,000 other parents province wide who have signed a petition. The province's subsidized daycares will stage a one-day strike on December 11. The McGill daycare is not officially participating in that event, and will remain open.