Childcare in the Pontiac: Public meeting at the MRC

0
92

Andre Fortin (left), Jane Toller (centre) and Kim Lesage held a public meeting at the MRC building to determine how to best meet childcare needs in the Pontiac over the coming years.

Nikki Buechler

CAMPBELL’S BAY – A meeting to discuss childcare in the Pontiac took place February 27 at the MRC office in Campbell’s Bay. Pontiac Warden Jane Toller chaired the meeting, assisted by Pontiac MNA André Fortin, and MRC director Kim Lesage.

Toller stated: “The provincial government has assessed the childcare needs of the Pontiac. I am concerned the number of daycare placements allocated is not adequate as this region is growing. We are scheduled to have a new childcare facility in Shawville in the fall, with 61 spaces available, at which point the province says we will be at 114% capacity. This seems low, and I would like to have a better sense of what
parents are going to need in the coming year or two.”

Fortin and Toller were both concerned that the Pontiac has a unique environment with a population that is spread out. “We lack densely populated urban centres; if we only create large childcare centres in bigger towns, many families living in rural areas, which accounts for much of the Pontiac, will be faced with a difficult commute, especially during winter, as they transport their children to and from daycare. We also need to accommodate parents who work shifts outside of typical business hours,” noted Toller.

However, the provincial government will be restricting licensure. “This will be a departure from what we have had in the past,” explained Fortin. “Parents currently have choices: small ‘home service’ childcare, private daycares, CPE childcare centres, and subsidized placements at private daycare centres. Moving forward, the province will only be issuing licenses to CPE childcare providers.”

Another issue raised was that the existing childcare centres are struggling to retain staff. “Since Covid, many childcare workers have left the field, or have been recruited to work in schools. We really need people to enter this profession, and it would be helpful if an early childhood educational program was offered locally so people can be trained locally,” added Mona Donnelly, manager of Bambino’s Universe early childhood centers in Luskville and Shawville.

Toller announced her intention to hold a follow-up meeting in the near future. In the meantime, she is seeking information from Pontiac parents: “We still have time to present the province with information that better predicts the needs of our region, so I will be asking the mayors to find out how many parents will need childcare in the next couple of years.”