(Quebec) A few months before the election deadline, the Legault government finally passed its Bill 1 on Thursday, which aims to appease the major crisis that has shaken the childcare sector for years. But parents will have to be patient.
Currently, it is estimated that there is an unprecedented 51,000 child care space shortages, not to mention the serious shortage of educators responsible for taking care of children.
The bill was adopted with 77 votes in favor and four against, discordant votes coming from the PQ benches. Unlike the Liberal and Solidarity MNAs, the PQ opposition chose to vote against the legislation, convinced that it is not in line with the educational childcare services program (Centres de la petite enfance) set up in 1997 by Pauline Marois and the Bouchard government.
At a press conference, surrounded by several community partners, the Minister of Families, Mathieu Lacombe, recalled that his objective was to complete the childcare services network “once and for all” by 2025, in particular by modifying the way of allocating places, so as to speed up the process.
” The game has just changed”, said the Minister, proud of his new law by which he undertakes, with the accompanying action plan, to create 37,000 new places by then, in a possible second mandate. At the same time, we will have to train and hire some 17,800 educators, a significant challenge in this era of labor shortages.
The order is large and the investment required will be significant. Over five years (from 2021-2022 to 2025-2026), Quebec estimates that it will have to pay an additional 5.8 billion to finance the network. In fact, more modestly, the creation of places as such will cost 1.2 billion in five years, according to the table provided by the ministry. In his calculation, the Minister includes several related costs, including the future remuneration of the educators.
In the short term, however, nothing will change, in terms of access. Currently pregnant women and parents of a baby looking for a place will have to continue to manage differently.
Minister Lacombe acknowledged his inability to respond quickly to demand, saying that the immediate solution to the current lack of places “does not exist”.
He justified the fact that he waited until the very end of his mandate to present a solution to the childcare crisis by the need to manage the pandemic, which hit daycare centers, which were temporarily forced to close their doors.
According to the PQ spokesperson, MNA Véronique Hivon, this legislation is “a missed opportunity”, since the Minister of Families, Mathieu Lacombe, did not take advantage of the change in the law to provide Quebec with a truly complete network of reduced-contribution educational childcare services, based on the 1997 model.
Mme Hivon fears anarchic development of the network over the next few years, in particular because of the vagueness maintained as to the conversion of non-subsidized places into subsidized places at $8.70 per day.
She also criticizes the minister for not having specifically enshrined in law the right of each child to have a place. “Our children deserve better, and that’s what we would have expected from a government that claims the heritage of the Parti Québécois and Ms.me Marois, but which does not respect the principles at the base of this network”, which are quality, accessibility and universality, commented Mme Hivon, in a press briefing on Thursday.
With Bill 1, the Minister is giving himself new levers to enable him not only to speed up the process, but also to better oversee the development of the network.
Quebec will now favor a continuous call for tenders, and not targeted calls, as in the past, which resulted in delays that could stretch over several years.
The new law will grant more powers to the Minister, in particular to ensure better development of services at the regional level. In the absence of interest shown by the promoters in such and such a region, it will be able to create places itself in the regions where the needs are not met.
The needs assessment mechanism will be reviewed to enable the Minister to better determine the supply.
Law 1 will also create a one-stop shop, which will replace La Place 0-5, a source of frustration for parents. You will have to go through this counter to obtain a place as soon as it is operational. This will make it easier for parents to know what rank they occupy on the waiting list, which is currently practically impossible.
The rules for registering with the one-stop access to daycare will be formulated in such a way as to give priority to children living in disadvantaged areas.
The maximum number of children accommodated per facility will increase from 80 to 100, and temporary premises may be authorized if necessary to accommodate them.