Families gathered at city hall Tuesday for daycare debate
Supporters of the Castle of Learning daycare have organized a public meeting for the Travelodge Thursday evening beginning at 7 o'clock. It's in addition to the forum on daycare at the Kenora District Services Board office Friday morning at 10 o'clock.
Tomorrow night's meeting comes on the heels of yesterday's deputations at city hall. After an emotional series of delegations, Kenora city councillors decided to move forward with their plan to close the Castle of Learning daycare centre.
Council chambers overflowed with supporters for the service, with some standing outside for more than an hour to show their support, but it didn't alter the majority of voices on council.
In her deputation, Shannon Robinson, whose son Camden attends the daycare.
"I would like council to understand the importance of the recommendation on the table. This decision is not just a matter of shuffling a few kids around. This decision has the potential to impact on a much deeper and long-lasting level," she said.
"With a final look through the equity lens, one of the things that stands out to me is that this decision is likely to affect the most vulnerable populations in our community, and the people who are often voiceless at the table: children, women, single parents and those with lower incomes," she said.
Shannon Robinson addresses council
Union leader Carole Bruneau joined with parents Shannon Creedon Bailey and Kim Kasprick in supporting the Castle of Learning during the meeting.
Coun. Rory McMillan was the lone voice in support of the parents. He said he considered the service as an investment in the future, rather than an expense.
"If ever we're going to make a shift, now is the time to make it," said Rod McKay, noting the deep deficit for roads and sewers.
He believed the provision in the city's Children's Charter for "high quality affordable child care and early learning/education programs."
Instead, Coun. Sharon Smith encouraged supporters to work together and find new service providers.
Committee chair Charito Drinkwalter said she'd talked with at least two agencies, who were willing to help fill the gap. She emphasized the deficits being incurred weren't sustainable and a decision had to be made.
Parents overflowed from city hall Monday during daycare debate
"As an elected official, I have the responsibility to be fiscally responsible and to manage the resources of the city," she said.
For more than three years, the city had been running a deficit, and council would have to take money from other areas to make it up. Another alternative would be to increase rates, and she didn't think parents would like that, either.
Finance chairman Ron Lunny agreed saying the time was right, if the city was going to get out of the daycare business.
Mayor Dave Canfield went a step further. He said the government at Queen's Park was streamlining services, and they wanted to add early childhood education to the Ministry of Education. He believes the city has an opportunity to work with the ministry to provide quality services at a reasonable cost to those in need within the community.
"It's not about the service and whether or not I believe in it," he said, adding he was a believer in subsidized daycare.
Instead, it was about reducing the duplication of services and streamlining them.
"If there's not changes made, we will be in the same situation as Greece and other countries around the world," he said.
The easy answer was to agree to the demands of those at council chambers, but he said it would lead to an unsustainable situation, which may eventually lead to the loss of more public services in the city.
If you don't agree and choose not to re-elect him because of the decision on daycare, the mayor said he could live with it, because he believed it was the right decision for the city as a whole.
Shannon Robinson's statement:
Deputation to Council re Castle of Learning Closure
August 7, 2012
Good afternoon. My name is Shannon Robinson, I stand here representing the Kenora families that are currently connected to the Castle of Learning; and those who support the public provision of child care services. I stand here as a mother; a community member; and as someone with a background in public health.
I stand here with many questions about how a Council committed to “providing and improving the quality of life for Kenora residents” (as quoted from p. 4 of the Kenora Vision 2015 Corporate Strategic Plan) can be entertaining such a significant decision without consulting many of the stakeholders involved.
I stand before you today asking that you not close Castle of Learning and Discovery Centre December 31, 2012.
Castle of Learning offers a high quality, affordable early learning program.
Through Castle of Learning, my son is exposed to the type of environment where children can thrive, and parents can feel confident about leaving their children.
The World Health Organization states that: “The early child period is…the most important developmental phase throughout the lifespan. Healthy early child development…strongly influences well-being,…mental health, heart disease, competence in literacy and numeracy, criminality, and economic participation throughout life. What happens to the child in the early years is critical for the child’s…lifecourse” (World Health Organization, Early child Development, www.who.int, retrieved August 6, 2012).
As such, the World Health Organization considers early childhood experience one of the social determinants of health. Defined as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age” (www.who.int), the social determinants of health are shaped by the unequal distribution of power, money and resources. They are shaped by the decisions made at all policy levels, including municipal.
There are other determinants of health as well, many of which are intertwined with the type of environment that the City of Kenora supports through Castle of Learning.
Some of these factors were considered, reviewed and acknowledged by Council in adopting a Children’s Charter in 2006 (page 2 of the October 10, 2006 minutes). The Children’s Charter outlines that all children deserve basic rights and freedoms and access to a fair share of society’s resources. It states that “Communities have a duty to support parents and children.”
It also specifically identifies children’s rights to:
- The resources to ensure a high quality of childhood and lifelong health
- High quality affordable child care and early learning/education programs
- Adequate government resources for the provision of children’s programs
One determinant of health is Food Security. This is about having enough safe, nutritious food to eat. There is also a Children’s Charter right for sufficient nutritious, affordable food, safe water and clean air. Having enough food to eat is central to good health and the cost of eating in our communities continues to rise (NWHU, Social Determinants of Health Report, 2012; www.nwhu.on.ca). Castle of Learning provides healthy meals and snacks to all children, every day. This may help lessen a burden faced by families struggling with decisions like do I pay the rent or do I buy food.
Another determinant of health is social inclusion. This is about being able to participate in society and having a social connection to our community. There is also a
Children’s Charter right to a quality of life that provides healthy physical, intellectual, emotional and social development. Castle of Learning is one of four programs in Kenora for which subsidies are available for families who would otherwise be unable to participate – each with waiting lists. To close Castle of Learning means the children who need subsidies will be unable to participate in day care; and the parents unable to participate in the workforce.
Although there are a dozen ‘determinants of health’ the final one that I want to talk about is Employment. “Employment, job security and working conditions affect both physical and mental health”. Income from work provides a practical means to contribute and be part of society. (NWHU Social Determinants of Health Report 2012). Closing down Castle of Learning will cost 17 employees their jobs, at a time when (In the Vision 2015 Corporate Strategic Plan) it states that “Kenora will value and be responsible to its employees” and “will provide diverse and full employment opportunities (p. 8). In its “open for business” era, another door will be closing.
With a final look through the equity lens, one of the things that stands out to me is that this decision is likely to affect the most vulnerable populations in our community, and the people who are often voiceless at the table:
-and those with lower incomes.
In the Corporate Strategic Plan, Daycare is identified as a Core Business under Community Service (Vision 2015, Corporate Strategic Plan p.9). I fully support this.
Child care and the safety and security of children are municipal issues that deserve municipal programming. They are family issues – and families are what make up the backbone of this community now, and into the future. Families are here in the community everyday, not just May long weekend – September long weekend. Families pay their taxes, pay their bills, and work in and support local businesses and services.
It is hard to argue that childcare can be a “profitable business” in today’s economy. I’m not trying to. I don’t think we need to.
We need to change the indicators that we measure the success of this community by. In her letter to parents and caregivers, Colleen Neil indicated that Council has been “reviewing its priorities” to ensure the “right investments”.
Children are “right investments”. Children are the economic future of the community.
Priorities of council and the community need to expand to define success beyond bottom line economics. Affordable, accessible, quality childcare is a necessity for a vibrant community. It is as essential to a community as snow removal, municipal water, and recreation services.
There is a big commitment to our community in this room. It does not go unnoticed. I have put my trust in you, Councilors, to make decisions about our community that impact my family. Don’t let us down.
Slow down this process. Engage in public consultation; strike a city committee to look at the issue; and keep working with the families until we find the win-win scenario - the one that benefits the City of Kenora and the one that benefits its children.
Don’t make this decision on the “maybes” “probably’s” and “hopefullys” we’ve been hearing about other providers stepping in to fill the gap. This process is moving too quickly for any ‘seamless transition’.
Make this decision based on the promise you made to the children of Kenora in 2006.
For more information:
Parents rally for daycare in Kenora
Daycare, casino on agenda today
Daycare funding uncertain, Williams
Union worried about Castle of Learning