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Changes to child care legislation intended to increase oversight and regulation for unlicensed and home daycare to make them safer, are urgently needed and long-overdue, CUPE Ontario said, following the recent provincial government announcement.

Prompted by the recent deaths of children in unregulated home daycares which are currently not subject to standards, inspections or ratios similar to licensed child care, the legislative changes include a repeal of the Day Nurseries Act (DNA) and amend several other Acts. DNA is the child care regulatory regime in place since 1946, in Ontario.

Bill 143, the Child Care Modernization Act, 2013 was introduced into the Ontario Legislature in early December 2013 once it is approved, the new legislation will be referred to as the Child Care and Early Years Act 2013. In addition to the name change child care legislation will undergo an extensive overhaul. Among the significant changes proposed is an increase to the children that licensed home daycares can have, up to six, from the current five.

The provincial government estimates that if every licensed provider were to take on one additional child, 6000 new spaces would be created.

Increasingly in Ontario, families are driven to use unlicensed providers because of the lack of affordable, regulated child care in public and non-profit centres, said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn. We think the province is off-base with this proposal. Hahn called the change a “red herring” since the majority of regulated child care providers live in apartments, they don’t have a lot of space and get approved to provide care for 2-3 children. Also we don’t agree with growing spaces in this way, he said.

While CUPE Ontario has no problem with tougher laws for unregulated providers we are not in support of changes to child care legislation that would increase the number of children that licensed home daycare providers can have from five to six, Hahn stressed. This is not the way to increase child care access. We prefer expanding spaces in public and non-profit regulated centres which is considered by many experts be better quality child care, he said.

CUPE Ontario is urging the provincial Liberal government to continue to show leadership in developing and growing a fully-regulated public and not-for-profit child care system. Regrettably in Ontario only about 20 per cent of children under five are in regulated child care.

It is encouraging that as part of the legislative amendments, the province acknowledges the importance of public and non-profit child care delivery through our school system, said Hahn. But again CUPE Ontario is calling on the Kathleen Wynne government to go a step further and commit to increase the capacity of municipal and community-based non-profit child care and make child care more affordable for Ontario families.

CUPE Ontario agrees with Ontario’s education minister in her pointed comments to the federal government that the provinces and territories need a willing partner in Ottawa in order to increase child care capacity. We encourage the Ontario Premier to take this one step further, and make federal involvement in child care, a priority at future first ministers’ meetings.

Bill 143 will be going to a legislative committee early in 2014 and CUPE Ontario intends to make a written submission.