Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, February 01, 2010

Daycare: The Unanswered Questions

It's women and children first in Windsor. No, not to save them but to destroy them by using them as victims in a political game to damage public service unions as I have written before. I guess the memory of Windsor's near riot has faded.

First it was the vulnerable women in the low-salaried jobs in City Hall who were supposed to knuckle under but did not and now it is kids in daycare centres who are the pawns to get rid of workers.

No wonder I am told that an Administrator at City Hall
  • was heating up the phone lines last week in getting private operators of Day Care to attend tonight's council meeting.

We cannot have Edgar (aka Eddie) being embarrassed in his own Council Chambers as he was when the County sought to have the matter deferred to get questions answered. He looked so foolish, again. He just could NOT get the job done. Great in planning but a failure in execution, again.

If that allegation is true and that person has an interest in the daycare Agenda item, then that person should be fired!

Think I am being melodramatic. Here is an interesting question that will never be answered. Why is the daycare matter really so important for Edgar? Was it the subject of the recent Dwight/Edgar meeting?

Why do I ask? Consider this from today's Star:

  • "Grits, unions headed for confrontation
    Deficit means all options on table

    The Ontario government and its public-sector unions could be heading for a major confrontation over wage freezes and cutbacks as the Liberals try to wrestle down a $25-billion deficit.

    Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told union leaders at a recent meeting that all options, including unpaid vacation, are on the table as the government crafts a budget due in March.

    And some experts like Ian Lee, the director of the MBA program at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, say public-sector job losses are inevitable.

    But with union leaders vowing to fight any attempt to reduce the deficit "on the backs" of workers, there could be loads of trouble ahead."

Don't tell me that there is no political agenda at play. Again, Windsor CUPE workers are the target for the Province!

Pretty impressive list of achievements that we want to toss away. All because Edgar screwed up on the near riot. He needs to redeem himself by letting City workers go. After all, his hardliner reputation is at stake and his future career since Gord tells us time and time again that he's not going to run for a third term.

There is no doubt when you read the report that there is an agenda at play. It is so poorly done with so little analysis of alternatives that it is nothing more than a continuation of the political action that started with the Firefighters Arbitration and was continued on with the CUPE strike.

I would have thought that before we do this and put over 100 people into the street at a time of a poor economy when it is hard to find jobs, we ought to have a real debate with the facts presented properly rather than just a one-time discussion at City Council. What's the big hurry so that even County Council was not fully informed?

The Star Editorial today cannot be taken seriously:

  • "There is more than enough information available to make a decision that ensures the interests of taxpayers and families can be balanced."

What do members of the Community want? We've never had that conversation. Shouldn't priorities be discussed during the budget debate? Perhaps it is more important for our children to have a proper daycare so that they can grow and develop to meet their potential, especially those who come from a disadvantaged environment, than to save a few hundred thousand dollars per year. What do Windsorites say? We don't know.

To be direct, I would have preferred that Sandra and Dwight had paid over $5 million to the City of Windsor for two years than to give it to the Red Bull Corporation for two weekends.

You really ought to read the City report on Daycare. Lots of numbers, figures, dollars, percentages and calculations, but no real thought about alternatives. No matter whether a daycare is above capacity, at capacity, near capacity or below capacity, the answer is always the same: close it down.

Clearly instructions had been given and they were followed to the "T."

There is no doubt whatsoever that if enrollment is down and there are new alternative private and comparable daycare centres opening up, then change is necessary even if it means replacing staff. Financial considerations are important and need to be dealt with. However, a report that is so poorly done is an insult. Moreover, it is damaging to the children involved and their future.

Think about it. Would we be having this issue with respect to daycare if the CUPE picketers at Edgar’s house during a strike had arrived after he had left with his daughter for her private daycare?

Is this really payback time? I do remember that Edgar does like to get back at those who have taken a shot at him. No, it cannot be as petty as that can it?

I guess that our Mayor likes to play games. How else to describe his fixation on Monopoly? Isn’t that what we are doing now? It is all or nothing, the typical way that our Mayor likes to negotiate. He did that with the CUPE workers until after 101 days he was forced to give in. He did that with the Firefighters Arbitration for three years until the arbitration award gave the firefighters a very nice increase.

The Francis style is not to give in but to negotiate hardline. And then lose! Just take a look at Greenlink for example and see what the Mayor has been able to achieve with his “tough” position with the Province.

I do not understand why the City and the Union could not have sat down and figured out a way to deal with the situation so that over a hundred people would not have to be let go at the worst possible time given our economic downturn. Surely some of the day care centres could have been kept open. For example, several of them including the Jefferson one are operating close to or at or slightly above capacity.

Why could they not be saved along with a number of the jobs? Why couldn't the other facilities be consolidated along with a number of the jobs? Why does everything have to close down now?

Nope, instead we have to hire for $300,000 two new “temporary” Employee Relations people, one for three years, to help in the placement of terminated employees. There is a need we are told for trauma centres presumably when the daycare workers are finally let go. I wonder if anyone will go catatonic or worse because of all of the stress.

It would be very interesting to know how many sessions there were between the City and the Union. Was it like that with the Firefighters where there were 14 sessions without one single matter being resolved between the parties? Or was it like the sessions with CUPE where for months there were no negotiations at all?

I know that the Mayor likes to put people on the spot, especially Councillor Halberstadt. Here are some unanswered questions for him and his colleagues to ask Administration as they go through the Daycare Report. I'd really like them answered too:

  •  Does anyone within City Hall or Administration who has an interest in the daycare subject matter have a pecuniary interest?
  •  The municipal centres look after many kids with special needs including autism, developmental delays and other mental needs. It is fine to say that the City Department will deal with agency staff to ensure that their needs are met but what does that mean?
  •  What efforts were made to recruit new families to use City facilities? If the efforts were halfhearted or, if the strategy was to reduce daycare staff, then it is no wonder that enrollment has decreased. Do not forget that Edgar does like the plan matters in advance such as with the CUPE strike where everything is nicely in place before the strike took place.
  •  Why is the Jefferson Centre at capacity and the Glengarry Centre and the College Centre at or near capacity compared with the others and why would they be closed since they are clearly very successful
  •  How nice for the private day care operators that the City is sending them 425 new children at a time when their enrollment supposedly is decreasing as well. Will the City get a commission for doing that?
  •  Granted that the Province has changed the rules about Kindergarten making it all day but that will take place over five years. Only 20% will be enrolled in years 2010 and 2011. Why then does action have to be taken immediately?
  •  Given the fact that the municipal strike caused parents to look for alternative arrangements for day care, could one legitimately ask whether one of the reasons for the long strike was precisely to drive people away from City daycare. We saw for example how the Cleary was run into the ground before it was “given away” to St. Clair College. Are we seeing the same type of justification with the strike and day care?
  •  What is the cost of the municipal day care compared with that of the private sector to the parents and will they be able to afford it?
  •  Although new childcare centres have opened, how do they compare with City facilities? Are we comparing apples and oranges?
  •  The Glengarry Centre is operating at a reasonably high capacity. Why is it going to be closed as well?
  •  The College Centre is almost operating at capacity and was presumably justified when the Call Centre was set up in the area. Will its closure negatively affect the Sutherland operation?
  •  How many private daycares offer extended service to meet the needs of people who work on shifts? Where are those private centers located in relation to Jefferson where such a program exists.
  •  I note that some of the solutions being considered are home daycare. Obviously, such a service does not compare with that offered by the City and accordingly why is it being presented as an alternative?
  •  A number of the daycare centers will have to be closed and maintained “until such time as the City determines what is to be done with the building.” Given the experience where supposedly City facilities were to be sold to cover part of the expenses of a new facility being built up to replace them, and they were not, does anyone truly believe that these daycares will be disposed of at a good price? How many of them will be left closed and left as a drain on City finances?
  •  Isn’t it nice that the City recognizes that the transition will be difficult for children, especially those that have special needs. Isn’t that another reason to consider a bit more carefully what should be done rather than having it railroaded through Council on Monday?
  •  So there goes support for Sole Support Parents programs in which people gain transferable skills. If they can’t work, does it mean that social welfare costs increase?
  •  Where will the 60 to 70 students per year go to get their ECE experience since that City program will end?
  •  It looks like the Postal Workers who have an agreement with the city with respect to daycare will have to find a new Provider as well. Who provides a comparable service with that of the City?
  •  What happens to the 120 students who have a summer job the City? I guess they lose out too as bumped employees take their jobs as well.
  •  There was no real analysis of who the users of the facilities are and whether they could afford to increase fees paid to help reduce expenses. If they cannot afford to do so with the City, how will they be able to pay private operators? Does it mean that their children will have to suffer with facilities that are not comparable to those that they have now to their obvious disadvantage?

What a mess the City will be under as people start bumping. Has anybody figured out how long that will take to be resolved and what the impact will be on morale which is not particularly good now? Moreover, considering changes in other City departments, the report says that the City may not be able to place all of the employees properly. Just read this to see what a shambles the whole process will be and ask yourself why the hurry

If one reads the following and looks at the empire building , then one just has to cry. If it were were not so sad, it would be hilarious.

This is going to take years and years and years to accomplish and who knows what the cost will be to do so. Seriously, does anybody believe that this City is capable of a reorganization on such a scale? Remember what happened with the reorganization that Dennis Perlin started? How will this fit in with Services Delivery Review? Is that now going to have to be deferred? Has anybody thought about this stuff or is the answer close the daycares down to meet a political agenda and worry about the consequences later?

Of course, the so-called outrageous extra costs have been bumped upwards by about $300,000 to make it look even worse

I liked as well how the average blended per diem is set out showing the City's rate being $88 while that of the private sector being $33. Of course, we're not told if apples and oranges are being compared.

Interestingly, the extra cost is slightly less than $450,000 once the administration and capital costs are removed. Why, this is less than it cost to retain Lufthansa who will prepare a report on creating something at the airport that is nothing more than pie in the sky.

The extra cost is similar to that which the City spent fighting the unionization of its PETU managers.

I would suspect that the extra cost is substantially less than the cost that the City paid over three years for the Firefighter Arbitration.

The extra cost is mere peanuts compared with how much extra the hard-liners cost the City with their poor results in the CUPE strike.

The extra cost would have been more than covered for several years if our Council hero had complied with the Tender documents on the 400 Building and awarded the contract to the lowest compliant tenderer.

How many years would the extra costs have been paid if Edgar and Council had not wasted money with lawyers and consultants on the border file or had not decided to build the East End Arena at taxpayers expense?

It will be interesting to see what happens at Council on Monday night. I have already heard that two Councilors may not participate because of potential conflicts of interest. I assume if it is true and considering who they are that they would have been in support of municipal daycare. There go two votes.

It will be interesting as well to see whether the County backs off after intense lobbying efforts and if they do not, whether Council ignores them. That certainly would go to the complete destruction of any relationship between the City and the County and could result perhaps in a number of joint efforts being ended.

If municipal daycare is ended, then there will be a considerable number of families negatively impacted. How will they react as well as the workers who may be laid off? Will those people decide as their revenge to take it out on Members of Council at the next election? You better believe it!