POLITICS

Ontario moves to toughen up daycare rules, immediately shutter rule-breakers

12/03/2013 06:31 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO, Cananda - The Ontario government has introduced legislation that would give provincial officials the power to immediately close daycares when children's safety is at risk.

The proposed amendments come after the deaths in recent months of two young children at unlicensed daycares in the Toronto area, one of which was allegedly overcrowded and found by inspectors to contain contaminated, expired and rotting food.

The legislation would bring in a raft of measures that would see unlicensed home child care facilities — which care for no more than five children under the age of 10 — given stricter oversight in line with their fully licensed counterparts.

The changes include letting the Ministry of Education impose fines of up to $100,000 for each infraction at licensed and unlicensed daycares, while also bumping the maximum court-ordered penalty from $2,000 to $250,000.

Education Minister Liz Sandals says the proposals would give officials the option of shutting and penalizing rule-breaking daycares, instead of having to head to court.

The act would also empower the ministry to issue compliance and enforcement orders, bar those convicted of certain crimes from running daycares and boost information sharing with children's aid and public health agencies.

If passed, operators of unlicensed daycares would for the first time have to count their own children under the age of six towards the five-kid limit.

Sandals said the ministry has been working with child care providers on the reworking of the province's child care law — which hasn't been comprehensively reviewed in 30 years — well before the high-profile daycare deaths in Vaughan and Markham.

"We've been working with the sector for a year on the change in rules. We've done a lot of work and it's a huge act," she said Tuesday before the Child Care Modernization Act was tabled.

The proposals would also see licensed home daycare providers allowed to care for six children, up from the current five, while the rules about what kind of child care services require licensing would also be cleared up.