Parents want Petrolia to start child care center

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“It is time that this government shows up for you and your kids. We are asking for municipal run daycare now.”

That from Jenna Simpson, one of the members of the Petrolia Childcare Advocacy Group which is appealing to the town to start a municipally run daycare.

Young parents and their parents packed the Petrolia council chambers Monday to demand something be done to ease the two year-plus long waiting lists for day care and after school care in the community.

The need for day care is great across the country. The Petrolia advocacy group estimates there are about 340 children who are of day care age in the Town of Petrolia and 85 spaces. Young families told councillors how they applied for day care in licensed programs as soon as they found out they were expecting, but still didn’t have a spot by the time the child was born and the parental leave was over.

And while it is a big issue for the parents, Simpson says it is also a problem for the community.

“How can we expect nurses to show up when their kids have been on the wait list at Generations Day care for four years. The person who makes your Subway sandwich at lunch needs day care. The person who responds to your EMS call needs day care. The PSW looking after your loved one at the long term care home needs day care. This is critical social and economic infrastructure,” she told council.

“Petrolia is a growing municipality, attracting remote workers and others from around the province. There isn’t a more important reason for families to choose another municipality,” she added. “If we can’t ensure the health and well being of this community’s children, we will lose out even more than we are now. It’s great that we have the water treatment capacity but we can’t support parents and children adequately right now.”

There is more childcare options on the way. A new federal/provincial program will create 541 new day care spaces in Lambton – 67 are slated for Petrolia and Wyoming. County officials say they will focusing on licensing home day care providers since the province is offering only $90 per square foot to build new child care centres when the going construction rate is up to $400 per square foot.

But that didn’t sit well with the advocacy group. “Registered licensed home daycare isn’t good enough. We deserve childcare free of household hazards,” she said pointing out that a recent near drowning occurred at a home day care.
But even with those 541 spaces only a quarter of the children will be able to find licensed day care.

The advocacy group urged council to consider a municipal centre like one in Goderich. While it ran a deficit of over $460,000 in 2022, the group says parents are willing to pay more just to have safe spaces for children.

“Affordability is a barrier for some, availability is a barrier for everyone,” said Simpson. Shalen Hunter added some parents have said they’d be willing to pay up to $70 per day for care. The federal target is $10 per day.

Council asked Petrolia staff to gather information about the Goderich municipal day care centre.

Council did not make a commitment to move ahead with a facility.