Watson Lake's day care is closing because it can't find staff
'Even giving people a few dollars raise ... would translate to us going into the red'
Some parents in Watson Lake, Yukon have been left in the lurch by news that the only day care in town will be closed after Friday.
Tanis Secerbegovic, president of the Watson Lake Day Care Society, says the facility simply can't find enough staff.
"Our biggest issue, really, is that we're not able to offer them a wage that is competitive with other employers in Watson Lake," Secerbegovic said.
"I know that one of our staff was approached by one of the gas stations in the community, and was offered $4 more an hour than what we can pay."
Secerbegovic says the day care currently looks after about ten to 12 children and infants. It's run as a non-profit, so there's not a lot of money to raise staff wages.
"We're operating with very little margin for accidents and emergencies, so if our furnace goes down we need to have a little bit of cash in our bank account," she said.
"Even giving people a few dollars raise ... would translate to us going into the red."
No other options
The community has no registered day homes, so for some working parents the day care is the only option.
Jean Maclean's two-year-old son has been going there. Maclean works as the principal at Watson Lake Secondary School and her husband also works.
She says she found out Tuesday that the facility would close at the end of this week, and it took her by surprise. She's made arrangements with a friend to look after her son, at least for the short term.
"I'm hoping this arrangement will continue, but it could easily not work out as well," Maclean said.
"It would be very hard for me to take my child to work and … I just really don't know how that would work out."
Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod raised the issue in the Yukon Legislature this week. She said Social Services Minister Pauline Frost was in the community last summer, but declined an invitation to meet with the day care society because she "was too busy".
"This is unfortunate. If she had met with them this summer, then maybe we wouldn't be where we are today," McLeod said.
Frost replied by saying she had attended a town hall in Watson Lake, and the day care "did not come up in our discussions."
"I will commit to following up with the day care in Watson Lake and certainly hear them out," Frost said.
In the meantime, the day care society will meet this weekend to try to come up with a plan.
"Hopefully at that point we can have some sort of strategy as to what our next steps are and what we're gong to do," said Secerbegovic.
"We just can't safely operate if we don't have the staff to look after children."
With files from Nancy Thomson and Sandi Coleman