City council in Windsor, Ont., decided to get out of the child-care business after an emotional vote Monday night.
Seven daycares in Windsor and Essex County along with two satellite operations in schools will shut their doors in September.
Council members cited declining daycare enrolment and the need to save money for the decision. The city and county will save more than $1 million a year with the closures.
Over 200 spectators crowded the council chambers to witness the 5-3 vote to close the city-run centres.
"I'm shocked," said mother Sheri-Lynn Woods, who left the council chamber in tears.
"It's not pleasant, but the fact of the matter is, in positions of responsibility … tough decisions land here and we have to make them," said Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac, who voted for the closures.
"Ninety-one per cent of people using child care are using community-based child care. And only nine per cent are using municipal child care," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis.
Currently the daycares host 425 children who will need to be accommodated come September. There are more than 1,400 vacancies in local non-profit and private daycares to absorb the children, but some parents have doubts and worries.
"The two daycares where I'm living did not take my son," said Brajendra Singh, the father of an autistic child, about local private daycare facilities.
The city has assured concerned parents that special help and attention will be given to help them find new daycare spaces.
The decision will have a significant impact on labour relations and affect over 100 jobs. The daycare workers, members of CUPE Local 543, will start exercising their rights to bump other union members once they receive notices. The union spent over 14 weeks on the picket line last summer fighting for retirement benefits and job security.
Essex County Mayor Ron McDermott expressed disappointment over how the issue was handled and the lack of consultation. He said there were other options that could have been discussed to keep the facilities in Amherstburg and Tecumseh open.
"I got some more answers watching it on TV. But, why should I watch it on TV? Can't I be sitting face to face with these people, seeing as we're involved?" asked McDermott.
Although two of the daycares are in Essex County, their funding and control are in the hands of Windsor council. The city administration has stated there is nothing to prevent the county from running its own child-care program.