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Quebec weighs moratorium on private daycare spaces

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Bagnall, Janet
Publication Date: 
19 Feb 2013



MONTREAL — Faced with the addition in January of 1,200 new spaces to
an already underutilized network of private daycares, Family Minister
Nicole Léger has suggested she might impose a moratorium on unsubsidized

Léger’s press attaché, Bruno-Guy Cyr, said Tuesday that the minister
was looking at a moratorium among “a number of scenarios.” Cyr said the
minister wants to resolve a situation where strong growth in private
daycare has led to thousands of vacant daycare spaces and complaints
from private operators that they can’t make a living. No date has been
set for an announcement.

The Parti Québécois government blames the previous Liberal government
for setting up a system whereby private operators seeking a licence
could not be turned down as long as they met governmental rules and
norms for operating a daycare centre.

The result has been the creation of a private, unsubsidized network
which, as of Dec. 31 last year, numbered 36,265 spaces, according to
figures provided by the family department. Nearly 20,000 of those spaces
were added since 2010. Demand does not seem to have kept pace with
growth, given that as many as 10,000 of the private, unsubsidized spaces
are currently vacant, according to private daycare organizations.

A number of private operators complain that the vacancies are the
result of unfair competition from state-subsidized public $7-a-day early
childhood education centres. Private operators demonstrated in Montreal
last week after Léger told the private network it was not eligible to
bid on the majority of 15,000 new public spaces to be created by 2016.

Samir Alahmad, vice-president of the Association des garderies
privées du Québec, said the government should not impose a moratorium on
new private daycare spaces.

“The government already interferes too much with the private sector,”
Alahmad said. “It’s true that the unsubsidized sector has seen a kind
of chaotic development the last few years, but that was partially the
fault of the government. It should have been straighter with daycare

“A number of private daycare centres opened in the hopes that they
could become part of the public network. But the only way to open a
public daycare is to be accepted by a regional committee. The government
should have told private centres it wasn’t going to happen, they can’t
change status.”

Alahmad said private centres need to “do their homework” before
opening their doors. “People should be free to set up wherever they
want, but they would be well advised to do a market study first.”

-reprinted from the Montreal Gazette