There are 9,200 children currently on the Onelist awaiting childcare in Waterloo Region, according to a staff report that was presented to council on Tuesday.
Director of children’s services Barbara Cardow presented the report to council, noting that the number of people on the list has exploded since the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care plan began in Ontario.
“It has increased by 115 per cent since the announcement of the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care plan,” she told council at a community council and health services meeting while noting that the issue existed prior to that point.
“There has always been a shortage of child care, however, many people did not even consider licensed child care because in most cases they just felt they couldn’t afford it.”
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When the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care plan was introduced back in 2022, the province directed the region to 3,700 more spaces for child care.
“I’m really happy to report that 921 of those spaces have been created between 2022 and 2023,” she said. “We have 1,400 more spaces that are planned to be open between 2024 and 2026, and that leaves us with a remaining 1,404 spaces to reach our service targets.”
One of the issues daycares are having is finding staff, but Cardow said they are also having issues finding operational space.
“So that has brought me to my recommendation today, which is we’re asking council to direct staff to explore, where feasible and appropriate, the development of community-based nonprofit childcare spaces,” she told council. “So these would be spaces run by childcare operators from the community in regionally owned land, buildings and surplus lands.”
Cardow asked that council direct staff to look at housing developments or region lands for potential locations.
“My second recommendation is that council direct children’s services and housing services and economic development to work with area municipalities, school boards, universities, colleges, hospitals and any other partners and businesses to explore creating affordable spaces for community based, nonprofit childcare in underutilized building and lands,” she asked.
Council approved the motion, however, it should also be noted that back in 2020, despite an outcry from the community, the region closed five childcares that it was operating and said it would move the money to subsidize private operators.
Closing the centres generated $6.7 million in savings for the region but also eliminated 207 childcare spaces.
According to the report presented on Tuesday, one of the five locations, 22 Mockingbird Dr. in Elmira, has been offered as space for a not-for-profit daycare to a potential operator.
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