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Forsyth to keep fighting for childcare spaces

Demand for spaces will continue to grow, but numbers decreasing



Ralph Forsyth is still not sure why he had trouble convincing enough of his fellow councillors to vote for a motion to negotiate with third party operators to keep the Teddy Bear Daycare open past May 31, but he feels as strongly about the issue as he did when he walked out of the March 17 council meeting.

"I've never been so frustrated, and not just since I've joined council, but ever," he said. "This is something that's completely in our control to help. We can't fix the feds' handling of daycare or our issues with the province - although (MLA) Joan (McIntyre) has been helpful and some regulatory changes could be made so the licencing office is not so harsh... but this is something that the municipality can do. It's a municipally-owned asset, and we can say, 'rent it out long-term.'"

Whistler Blackcomb is currently operating the Teddy Bear daycare in Maurice Young Millennium Place, and will cease operations on May 31, one month before the lease with the MY Millennium Place Society expires. Given that schedule and the fact that it could take weeks to discuss leasing arrangements with a third party operator, Forsyth says council doesn't have any time to lose.

"We've got just over 60 days until we lose this space forever," he said. "How does anybody need more time. We've received both reports, and it was time to make a decision."

Enrolment umbers are down at Teddy Bear Daycare, which Whistler Blackcomb says is partly the result of the impending decision to close the centre - parents won't register their kids for programs without a guarantee that the programs will still be there in the future.

At the heart of the conflict are two reports: One that supports the use of Millennium Place as a centre for the arts community and closing the daycare, and the draft Childcare Needs Assessment Report tabled at the last council meeting before Forsyth's motion.

"We have two conflicting reports. I have read them both closely, and I can say that the daycare report seems simple to me and says we should keep the daycare open. The other report says to close the daycare. It doesn't say what else should go in there, or where the money is going to come from. There's no line item... it just says close the daycare."

The Teddy Bear Daycare closure would be the second daycare closure in three months, following the closure of the Spring Creek campus of the Whistler Children's Centre on Feb. 27. At the same time, the list of parents looking for full or part-time childcare has continued to grow, with almost 100 children on the waitlist to get into the programs at Nesters.

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