Nervous parents as daycares eye kicking out four-year-olds due to $56M in cuts
MONTREAL—Only months after campaigning to boost the province’s daycare system, many Quebec parents are outraged by the Parti Quebecois’ plan to cut $56 million from public and private daycares.
The cuts are forcing some working parents to make tough choices. With daycare operators saying the cuts equal $8-a-week per child, some plan to cease providing services for four-year-olds.
Patricia Leduc is one of those parents impacted by the cuts.
Every morning, Leduc helps her family get ready for the day. Her oldest, Brandon heads off to kindergarten with dad, while her two daughters go to a $7-a-day daycare. She seems to be the perfect candidate for Quebec’s famously generous daycare system.
However she is in shock and moved nearly to tears by the news that four-year-old Alyssa could lose her daycare spot in September.
“It can take years to get on a waiting list for daycare. I went on a waiting list when I was pregnant with my first child,” said Leduc.
The alternative is private daycare, something she can’t consider on her budget.
“The impact is huge. There is absolutely no reassurance, there's no plan, there's not even a sign that there's something to support us in all this,” said another parent, Julie Ann Christoph.
With the cuts being directed from Quebec City, most municipalities don’t have pre-kindergarten programs that could help. Operations run out of private houses are a stop-gap, but can cost over $30 a day.
“Will I have to quit my job and stay at home to take care of my four-year-old because I won't have a spot,” wondered France Rioux. “I'll stop paying income tax on my revenue, I’ll have less disposable income and I’ll be slowing down the economy. Is that what the government wants?”
The government does offer to reimburse parents who send their children to private daycare. While an income cut-off does exist, most parents recieve a monthly cheque from the government to cover most of the cost of private daycare above $7-a-day.
According to a number of studies, Quebec’s public daycare system returns a profit to the government, allowing thousands of parents to pay taxes and contribute to the economy.
The PQ says daycares will have to do more with less.
“The Liberal government has left us with a $1.6 billion deficit,” said Quebec Family Minister Nicole Leger. “Everyone has to do their part.”
Daycare providers are left to make difficult choices, with the cuts to come into effect July 1.
“The quality of service will suffer,” confirms Brigitte de Bellefeuille, a daycare director.
Leduc is already worried about one-year-old Emma.
“By 2016 she'll be four. Will your plan be ready by then?” Leduce wonders.
She hopes by then pre-kindergarten will be available in her area west of Montreal. If not, the rush to find daycare options will strike again.
—with files from Justin Giovannetti