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County staff haven't talked to Liberal government on day-care funding post-election, warden says

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Author: 
Simpson, Barbara
Publication Date: 
16 Jul 2014
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Efforts to save Sarnia's Coronation Park Day Nursery appear to have come to a standstill this summer.

While parents and early childhood educators were steadily packing Lambton County council chambers this spring, Coronation Park parent Melissa Hewitt said she hasn't heard a peep since council deferred a decision on the Oak Avenue day care until September.

In June, Hewitt presented two financial plans to county council, outlining a string of strategies to help balance the books at the day care.

But since the meeting, nobody has followed up with her on her proposals.

"I can't implement anything seeing that I don't work there," Hewitt said Wednesday. "I got them the time (in front of Lambton County council), but nobody has asked me for anything further or to help."

Senior county staff continue to recommend the closure of the day care, citing the loss of $1.3 million in provincial funding and the full rollout of all-day kindergarten this fall.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley fought for a decision on the day care to be tabled at county council last month pending the results of the provincial election.

Day-care supporters had been hopeful a new government would reconsider the $1.3-million funding cutback.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath recently reiterated her call for the Liberal government to stop child-care funding cuts during question period at Queen's Park.

"Child care centres like Coronation Park Day Nursery in Sarnia are on the chopping block," she told Premier Kathleen Wynne. "Over 100 kids at that centre are at risk of losing access to child care in Sarnia alone."

But Wynne countered that the Liberal government has actually increased its child-care funding to $1 billion from $532.4 million in 2003.

However, she acknowledged the full rollout of all-day kindergarten is leading to changes in the child care system.

"There's no doubt about that, so we are working with the system," she said. "We are changing the funding formula. We recognize as those four-and-five- year-olds are in full-day kindergarten, there are changes that happen within the preschool child care system...."

The Liberal government has provided $5 million in transitional funding to help the County of Lambton. To date, the county has used $1.2 million of those funds to cover off a day-care deficit in 2013 and expects to use another $1.1 million in 2014.

Bradley has put in a request to speak with Education Minister Liz Sandals on the issue at the upcoming Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference.

However, he noted he doesn't have a mandate to find a solution because the day care is a county-run operation.

"My impression is that the warden and staff are standing back, waiting for this to come back on Sept. 3 with no attempt to resolve any of the issues," he said.

Senior county staff have not been in discussions over funding with the province, Lambton County Warden Todd Case said Wednesday.

"The basis of waiting until after the election was based on that NDP election platform to put more money into child care," he said. "Again, with them being defeated and the current government delivering the same budget that they did before the election, I don't know if there is any other money in that budget at first glance when it comes to day cares."

Case said the county has put in requests to speak with ministers at the AMO conference.

"(Coronation Park will) definitely be something we raise for sure. I've asked for a meeting with the municipal affairs minister and that would be one of those things raised in that meeting."

Union officials representing the centre's 38 early childhood educators couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

 

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Entered Date: 
22 Jul 2014
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