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Controversial child-care vote in Peel Region postponed

Parents protest possible daycare closures at Peel Region headquarters in Brampton, Jan. 26, 2012. CITYNEWS

Peel Region’s council has voted unanimously to defer a controversial proposal discussing whether to close a dozen daycare centres that would affect nearly 800 children.

Officials are considering closing 12 Learn.Play.Care. child-care centres that are run by the region in Brampton and Mississauga by September, following a three-year study of the effects of the province’s phased-in full-day kindergarten program.

The council heard from several residents and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care during its meeting Thursday before voting to postpone the vote, while angry parents protested outside earlier in the day.

The report endorsed by the region was crafted by consultant KPMG — the same company contracted by Toronto to find budget savings.

A space at the regionally-run daycares costs $83 per day, compared to a space at a private or non-profit centre, where a space is about $40. Parents argue cost shouldn’t be the only consideration and that quality of care also needs to be taken into account.

Region officials would use the $13.6 million in savings from the closures to subsidize 975 spaces at commercial daycare centres, increase supports for special-needs children and increase wage subsidies.

There are 445 licensed child care centres in Peel Region with more than 25,000 spaces. If the report is approved, 776 spaces would be affected.

The loss of spaces would be offset, the region says, by the fact that half of the kids in Peel child care centres will either start Grade 1 or be eligible for full-day kindergarten at the start of the next school year.

Region officials also claim the move will address the lack of subsidies for low-income families. There are 4,000 kids waiting for a subsidized space.

“Many child care providers have empty spaces available for children, but families in Peel need child care subsidy to use them,” said a statement issued by the region last week.