The husband of a woman who owns a daycare that abruptly shut down in the Halifax area Monday morning insists they had no choice, and parents will not be left on the hook for services for which they paid.

An emotional Patrick McGowan spoke exclusively with CTV News Monday evening and ripped up a large pile of cheques on camera.

"I do feel very sorry for these families,” he said. "But unfortunately, I was going farther and farther into debt with this business and that is exactly what happened."

Parents and staff arrived at the Cobequid Children's Centre in Lower Sackville Monday morning to find the doors to the facility had been locked.            

Employees said about 45 children were supposed to spend the day at the daycare and more than 70 families are affected by the sudden closure.

“I’m just disappointed. This was a good daycare, the children loved it here,” said Karen Kearney, a mother of two.

“The employees were great. I’m one of the lucky ones where I do have someone to look after my children while I work so I feel really bad for the ones that are just kind of left behind.”

Staff members were told to clean the daycare on Friday because the health inspector was coming in the morning. A neighbouring business said equipment was moved over the weekend.

But staff said they weren’t told the daycare would be shut down.

“I left everything and I moved here to work,” said Stephanie Malley, who started working at the daycare in August.

“They told me it was a great place to work. She kept in contact with me…she’s like, you know, you’ll love it. Now I have nothing again.”

Parents and staff who called the owner's cellphone were frustrated to discover it had been disconnected.

"It really makes you start to wonder exactly what the issue is," said parent Amy Howe.

"Obviously, your mind jumps to all these panicky situations and what the issue could be, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I'm completely floored."

The Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development became aware of financial problems at the daycare a few weeks ago.

"Now, we understood that they worked that out but I assume that they may have had something to do with today's closure," department spokesperson Shelley Thompson told CTV News on Monday.

McGowan said there was no mystery to the closure - the daycare was simply losing too much money to continue.

"For many months I have been pondering ways to keep this business afloat, but I have no intention of taking these cheques and going anywhere,” he said.

"These cheques, right here, right now, in front of the camera, will be ripped up so that there will not be any slander about my poor wife. As you can see, (they're all marked) void. They're all getting ripped up.  And anyone who wants to say something bad can say something bad about me."

Some parents had paid the daycare months in advance.

By law, daycare operators are supposed to give the department 120 days notice before a closure.

"There's nothing else I can say except, on the advice from the lawyer and from a trustee, was to just shut this business down, said McGowan. “There’s no easy way out of this and no proper time."         

The Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is compiling a list of possible daycares in the area.

"My apologies once again,” said McGowan. "There's no easy way. Those were a bunch of wonderful people that were there, just not a good business for me."

With files from CTV's Jayson Baxter