The last few weeks of the legislative session have been incredibly productive and satisfying. I was honoured to lead the debate on our government’s climate change bill, my Men’s Health Awareness Week bill moved through second reading, and I presented a private member’s bill asking the province to ban waiting list fees by child cares in Ontario.
The day after the latter bill was introduced, the Minister of Education announced regulatory changes that would effectively ban the imposition of non-refundable “wait list fees” by licensed child care operators across the province. The announcement marked the end of a brief and effective campaign to affect the kind of small but important changes that directly benefit families in our community.
The push for these changes began in August 2015, when a constituent emailed our office expressing her concern about being charged money to be on a waiting list for a local child care without any promise of registration. After an in-person meeting and a lot of calls and emails, a petition was drafted, circulated, signed, and presented at the legislature.
The reading of a petition into the legislative record is a great way to prioritize an issue.
Petitions are not simply read to reinforce the presence of an idea or concern, they are catalysts that can initiate the work that will help change take place.
In this case, the petition and the constituents’ advocacy led to detailed discussions in caucus and with the Ministry of Education. Four weeks later, my bill was presented and the announcement made.
This change is another step in the government’s effort to modernize child care in Ontario. The Child Care and Early Years Act provides a new legislative framework to increase access and oversight in Ontario’s child care sector.
It clearly defines programs that require a license and those that are exempt, to support informed choices for parents about their child care options, and introduces stronger oversight with greater enforcement tools and protections that will enhance the safety of children in licensed and unlicensed child care settings.
Implementing new regulations, however, is never without challenges. One change, stemming from a concern of the Ombudsman, was to stop child care businesses that operate year-round from temporarily setting up as day camps during the summer to avoid the staffing obligations (and costs) they incur the rest of the year.
These new rules threatened the viability of Community Centre 55’s very successful summer camp operation because they operate as a licensed child care for the rest of the year. Some 2,000 campers, 60 summer staff and 40 councilor-in-training positions were at risk. When my office learned this, we were able to work with Centre 55 and the Ministry to clarify when and how the new rules should apply, and helped ensure the summer camp could remain open.
It’s my role and my privilege to help our community to succeed, and I encourage you to contact our office with your ideas, questions or concerns. We are here to listen and to assist wherever possible, and to provide direction if an issue or problem is out of our jurisdiction. I can bring forward your petitions and help explore your ideas for news laws or regulations. We can’t resolve what we don’t know about, so I encourage you to get in touch. Have a wonderful summer!