Ontario’s Child Care Movement Takes on 123 Busy Beavers, ABC Learning Centres Bankrupt


From Child Care Watch Newsletter, Winter 2009

Together, we stopped 123 Busy Beavers from operating in Ontario.

Exactly a year ago, and in the middle of winter, the OCBCC and the Ontario Federation of Labour launched a province-wide tour to sound the alarm about 123 Busy Beavers and for-profit child care called “It’s Time for Public Child Care”.  We wrote a letter to provincial and national groups outlining our concerns regarding ABC Learning Centres and 123 Busy Beavers.

We also send every memeber of the Provincial Legislature a document called Hindsight from Australia - Lessons for Ontario. The document details the mistakes Australia has made as they persued a policy of corporate child care.

The Tour went to Thunder Bay, Peterborough, London, Guelph, Sudbury, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, St. Catharines and Hamilton.

We called on the Ontario Government to:

  • Immediately introduce a moratorium on new licenses for commercial child care operators;
  • Meet its Pay Equity obligations to early childhood educators and child care workers to improve the living standards for workers who are often underpaid and undervalued;
  • Fund a comprehensive, affordable early learning and child care system, modeled on Québec’s $7/day early learning and child care system.

We launched the tour with a press conference at Queen’s Park.  We were the first group to meet with new Minister Deb Matthews and we told her Ontario must take action. We sponsored a legal opinion encouraging the Province to take action and noting concerns with corporate child care (to read the Legal Opinion, please click here).


What other events took place?


We supported Bill 26 – a private members bill sponsored by New Democratic Party Critic for Children and Youth Services, Andrea Horwath. Bill 26 would have directed new licenses to not-for-profit providers while “grandparenting” existing for-profit child care centres. Private members bills rarely pass and in March, a child care contingent went to Queen’s Park to watch and hour of debate on the bill.

We also supported Bill C-303. We worked with New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow to speak out and support a Federal bill that would have provided greater accountability for child care spending. Despite support from all the opposition parties in the Federal Parliament, Stephen Harper’s Tory government did not bring the bill to a final vote.

Thousands of people signed petitions and wrote letters of concern to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

We brought Australian academic Deb Brennan to Toronto to talk to us about child care in Australia.

img_0903_smMunicipalities got involved. Several municipalities decided to lead on this issue and direct public funding to the not-for-profit sector.

Municipalities that have passed resolutions on new purchase of service agreements to not-for-profit child care only are: Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Dryden DSSAB, Thunder Bay DSSAB, Region of Peel and Waterloo.

During our Tour, share prices of ABC Learning Centres fell dramatically. On November 6, the world’s largest child care corporation went into bankruptcy, leaving the Australian government on the hook to temporarily keep child care centres open and leaving thousands of families wondering if they still had child care.

As of January 2009, 55 child care centres closed, with only a few weeks notice, and another 241 are scheduled to close.

You can find news and video reports on our website. What happened in Australia shows we were right to be concerned about the impact of corporate child care for Ontario communities.

Thanks to all for our hard work – we will continue to call for legislative change to create a well funded system of not-for-profit child care – affordable for parents and with good paying jobs for staff.