Quebec Liberals call on auditor general to investigate daycare wait lists

The Liberals and their interim leader, Marc Tanguay, are calling for an 'impartial' portrait of the number of children waiting for a daycare spot. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada  - image credit)
The Liberals and their interim leader, Marc Tanguay, are calling for an 'impartial' portrait of the number of children waiting for a daycare spot. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Quebec Liberals are asking the auditor general to look into the number of children waiting for a daycare spot and provide an "impartial" portrait of the province's childcare needs.

Families Minister Suzanne Roy said on Feb. 16 in the House that 33,000 children were on the official wait list, according to available data.

However, a week later, a Radio-Canada report showed that those 33,000 children are the ones who need a spot before August. But there are also about 39,000 more children ages zero to five on the wait list who need a spot after August, for an approximate total of 72,000.

In a letter sent to Guylaine Leclerc, Marc Tanguay, the interim leader of the Official Opposition, asks the auditor general to paint a clear picture of the number of children registered for the service.

Tanguay wrote that the changes made to the way the wait list is presented have generated more confusion than clarity. He also wrote that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government undermines the confidence of parents and families in Quebec and creates that confusion.

This letter comes a week after the Ma place au travail movement — a campaign that has been inviting parents to post a photo of their child with the hashtag #monenfantcomptepas (my child doesn't count) — launched online. Dozens of parents answered the call.

Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who is one of the parents of children who need a spot after August, also used the hashtag.

"These 39,000 children are real children. And their parents, they are real parents who will need a place in an educational childcare service to return to work without breaking the bank," Nadeau-Dubois said. "It is irresponsible to exclude them to look good."

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press
Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Roy posted a letter on social media Monday addressed to parents, reminding them that all children on the wait list for zero-to-five-year-olds are taken into account and that the official government wait list, which is now public, focuses on children who need a spot imminently in order to correspond to the real needs of the province.

"39,000 children are also enrolled ... and will need a spot in the future. They are not considered waiting, but their parents are worried, and we understand that," Roy said. "We are relentlessly pursuing the creation of spots so that the majority of them can get one at the location and at the desired time."

The Families Ministry says the list available to the public since last spring is the one that most accurately reflects the needs for daycare centres in Quebec.

"If 72,431 spots had been available on Aug. 31, 2022, there would have been nearly 40,000 spots too many [subsidized or not] in the child care network," said Bryan St-Louis, spokesperson for the ministry.

Marc-Antoine Mageau/Radio-Canada
Marc-Antoine Mageau/Radio-Canada

There are currently 291,000 spots in the daycare network. The Legault government estimates that the needs amount to 320,000 spots in total in Quebec.

The CAQ government had committed in the fall of 2021 to creating 37,000 spots. Since then, 8,378 of them have been created, including 7,000 in the last year, a record in 15 years, Radio-Canada recently reported.

The government also plans to convert non-subsidized spots into subsidized spots. So far, 3,500 spots have been converted through a pilot project, out of the 56,000 targeted.