Daycare dilemma: Private operators say 'socialist takeover' will drive most out of business
Daycare operators in Nova Scotia say the rush to $10/day childcare in five years may end up putting some out of business a lot sooner than that.
The province has offered childcare operators three options under the new model, options that some say are not economically feasible.
They also say it's the kind of move you wouldn't expect in a democratic country.
"It's a socialist takeover of businesses, mainly and predominantly owned by women,” says Chris Morash, owner of Beech Tree Academy in Beechville, N.S.
"The government is presenting it as an opportunity for people to get $10 a day daycare, but in the meantime, they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater."
In a joint federal announcement last week, the province moved to cut childcare fees by 25 per cent, an early move in a race to slash daycare costs to $10 a day in the next five years.
“It's historic. The impact will be felt for generations,” said Premier Tim Houston, at the virtual event last week.
However, some Nova Scotia operators say they've been left behind in the rush, given a tight deadline to choose between three options: stay private, become non-profit, or opt out and lose their subsidies, all of which will essentially drive them out of business.
"They're giving us a deadline of March 18 to sign agreements that would basically give them full access to our private centres,” says Donna Buckland, owner and director of Giant Steps Children's Centre, adding operators have always supported affordable childcare.
“The $10 a day daycare is something that I’ve been looking forward to my whole career. Affordable, accessible childcare for this country is just amazing, and I think it’s the direction we need to go in, as well as a compensation package for early childhood educators."
According to Buckland, some Nova Scotia childcare businesses were built over generations.
"Basically, what we're telling our parents is we just need more information and we need more time in order to make a decision that's going to mean that we're not going close our doors. Because the three options that they've given us to date are not acceptable and many operators will close their doors if we don't see a change," says Buckland.
Although the government inherited the deal from the Rankin Liberals, Nova Scotia Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan says her department has been negotiating with operators, and will continue to do so.
"We want to see them all involved in the future system we're building,” says Druhan. "There are many, many options available to them."
In a series of meetings, including one on Sunday, about 200 operators say they're joining forces and will refuse to sign the deal.
Acknowledging that the province has provided operators funding to discuss the matter with lawyers, accountants and financial advisors, Buckland says the nationalization of the industry goes even further than socialism.
"When I emailed my accountant, he basically said, ‘I can’t believe they’re trying to do this. This is communism,'" Buckland says.
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