The town of Sainte-Martine, in the Montérégie, is celebrating another milestone in its ongoing collaboration with a local daycare, the Centre de la petite enfance (CPE) Maison des Copains.
The partners have unveiled a new play structure for kids aged 18 months to five, paid for by the daycare, on donated municipal land.
The project is the result of an eight-year working relationship between the municipality and the CPE and it comes as many municipalities say they can be part of the solution for the current daycare shortage. They're calling on the provincial government to work more closely with them on daycare issues.
"It's a real win-win partnership," said Mélanie Lefort, a two-term city councillor in Sainte-Martine, who's currently running for mayor.
The Federation of Quebec Municipalities says local governments have a better notion of what the needs are in their communities — and they say they can help set up services.
In Lefort's town, the municipality donated land to build a CPE in exchange for having access to a room in the building for after-hours community activities. The daycare and the community room opened two years ago.
The city sometimes holds council meetings there, and the room is accessible to any person or organization in the community to book for free.
The new playground module was the next step in the project.
"It was a really long process, but it was worth it," said Lefort, explaining discussions started several years ago.
Both the CPE and the new play structure are also strategically located: near a municipal pool, two baseball diamonds and another playground for older children.
Lefort said it's a way to use public funds to help alleviate the shortage of daycare spots, but it also serves the community as a whole.
"I think we really need all municipalities to have these discussions and be open-minded," Lefort said. "I think it's a partnership model that can be spread across our province to make sure we have new spots."
Municipal group hopes to see similar partnerships elsewhere
The Federation of Quebec Municipalities is also encouraging other communities to try similar projects.
"We have to be innovative," said Claire Bolduc, a spokesperson for the FQM and prefect for the MRC Témiscamingue. "In the current context, innovation is key, particularly in the context of worker shortages and at the family level."
Bolduc said daycare services are essential, and the province needs to do more to equip municipalities to find creative solutions, like the partnership in Sainte-Martine.