Daycare Issue is Your Issue, Too, Toronto Moms and Dads - Part III of III
The parents who showed up at councillor Bill Saundercook’s office on two separate occasions this week to protest the one-year moratorium on day nurseries on High Park Avenue have a message for parents across the city.
This is your issue, too.
“This City decision sets a dangerous precedent for all of Toronto and anyone who needs daycare, or might need daycare in the future, should be angry about the decision,” says High Park constituent and parent Lindsay Viets.
“[What] makes this more than a neighbourhood issue is that council will be unifying all the varying by-laws from when Toronto was five different municipalities and applying them to the entire city,” adds Rebecca Keenan, another High Park resident and parent.
“The old, downtown city has always been more open to a blend of residential and commercial developments. Day nurseries, for example, did not need to go through the same hoops as other businesses, and could open on residential streets. The suburban municipalities, though, enforced by-laws that maintained a greater divide between residential and commercial properties and there is a push to have those suburban by-laws govern the entire city.”
Both Viets and Keenan were shocked by the ease with which City Councillor Bill Saundercook was able to carry forth a complaint from a handful of disgrunted High Park Avenue residents -- and that he chose to do so without consulting other area constituents.
Viets explains: “Saundercook was approached by a handful of homeowners complaining about a new daycare going in on High Park Ave. Saundercook took their complaints to City Hall and pushed through (at the end of the council meeting, on a day when 22 councillors were absent, no less) a decision to impose a one year ban on new [day nurseries] in the High Park area. He did not consult with any of his constituents beyond the original few complainers. I am astounded that a councillor can be so out of touch with his constituency. Ward 13 has one of the highest birthrates in Canada, and accessing daycares spaces is a huge issue for the many many young families in the ward.
Keenan is equally frustrated. In a post published to her blog, PlaygroundConfidential, she reported that she "could barely believe it" when she learned about the moratorium:
Viets feels that the homeowners complaints of daycare-related traffic and noise were overblown.
“The street in question is a grand, wide avenue, the widest and busiest in the neighbourhood. It has a parking lane on either side of the street (an unheard of luxury around here) and nearly every house on the street has a driveway, so residents are not even using the street parking. Additionally, many parents will be dropping their kids off en route to the nearby subway station, and will be walking, biking or taking the bus to the daycare. The noise issue is even more irrelevant. This is a busy street with a bus going by every 20 minutes, and the daycare would only be open during business hours. I doubt that the noise would interfere with anyone's enjoyment of their property.”
Now that the moratorium has passed, Viets, Keenan, and other junction parents are urging parents across the city to take up the issue before they find themselves faced with similar bans in their own backyards.
“Families do not have the time, typically, to keep abreast of these political details, but it is important that our representatives know our need and wishes,” Keenan stresses. “If parents want to affect political change they need to speak up. Write to your councillor to complain about a need for daycare, for example, or stroller access, or better playgrounds.”
Viets agrees. In fact, she has drafted a letter that parents can send as is to Councillor Bill Saundercook, Mayor David Miller, and their own Councillor -- or that they can adapt as they see fit).
One last thing. Don’t underestimate the power of blogs and Facebook and Twitter in coordinating your local political actions. You want to get maximum impact from the time you have to invest in creating a better world for your kids. Perhaps this snippet from PlaygroundConfidential will convince you that the hand that pushes the publish button and the stroller can change the world, starting in your own backyard.