Nov 28, 2014 0
The Quebec Liberal (PLQ) government’s recent changes to provincial subsidized daycare costs, including raised fees and potential fines for parents who hold “ghost spots,” have not been well-received by daycare workers, working class parents, and opposition parties.
In early November, thousands of daycare workers and families participated in province-wide protests when rumours began circulating of the PLQ’s plans to raise fees at its subsidized daycares. Introduced in 1997, Quebec’s subsidized daycare program funds about 223,000 places and has the lowest fees in the country, at a cost of $2.7 billion according to the PLQ. Fees were originally set at a universal flat rate of $5 per day per child. That rate was raised to $7 per day in 2004 and then to $7.30 in October 2014, when premier Philippe Couillard fulfilled an election promise that the PLQ would index the rate to the cost of living. Now, the PLQ has officially proposed setting a sliding scale for subsidized daycare fees based on family income.
Under the new regime, families earning less than $50,000 per year would still pay $7.30 per day, with rates increasing up to a maximum of $20 per day for families earning more than $150,000 per year. Daycare rates will be indexed annually to the cost of living starting in 2016.
Additionally, Quebec’s Family Minister Francine Charbonneau tabled Bill 27 on November 27, which would put in place expensive fines for parents who hold “ghost places” for their children at subsidized daycares. These spots are paid for at the subsidized rate by parents on parental or maternity leave who want to hold spots for their children for when they return to work, meaning the spot goes unused during that time. Bill 27 would introduce a fine for parents who hold these empty spots of $60 per day for up to three months and fines for daycares of up to $1000 for each infraction. The PLQ argues that in 2013-2014, 10 million hours of daycare time went unused at a cost of $280 million to the government.
Gina Gasparini, president of the association representing Quebec daycares (AGCPE), argues that parents and daycares will essentially be fined for the fact that the subsidized daycare system itself is broken. She has also called the move to a sliding scale fee system one of the “worst possible moves” the government could make.