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Private Calgary day homes will require licensing starting in 2023

Private, unlicensed Calgary day homes will need a business licence for operation in 2023.

Councillors unanimously approved a new bylaw on Wednesday that added the new requirement.

The bylaw comes after an emotional committee meeting in July where councillors heard from parents that had children harmed in unregulated day homes.

The bylaw defines private, home-base childcare as offering temporary care or supervision for up to six kids under the age of 13, not including the operator’s children. They must provide care for more than six hours per week.

The new rules don’t apply to a facility-based program, family supervision or care, or that of a babysitter or nanny.

To obtain the licence, the operator must provide a criminal record check and vulnerable sector check for themselves and anyone over 18 who resides in the home. The operator must also have a valid first aid certification from the past three years.

They will need to be provided each time a day home applies for licence renewal, city admin said.

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu questioned the additional bureaucracy. City admin said there are currently no regulations at all. They’re worried about pop-up day homes that set up quickly, not professional caregivers and “not offering the best services.”

Later, Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said this wasn’t about red tape.

“As the chair of the Business Advisory Committee, I’m very mindful of red tape in this building. I don’t see this as red tape, I’ll be honest,” she said.

“I see this as so much more of closing the gap where badly needs to be done in a vulnerable sector. And I think that’s something that my colleagues need to understand.”

Provincial oversight on childcare

Coun. Dan McLean was concerned this was reaching into provincial jurisdiction. He said he’d recently spoken with former Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz and the current minister, Matt Jones and they had no knowledge of this bylaw.

Provincial rules govern larger childcare facilities, leaving smaller day home to operate with few rules. The city said they wanted to ensure that gap was filled.

(Coun. Peter Demong later pointed out it wasn’t typical for admin to interact with elected officials on these matters.)

Coun. Jasmine Mian was concerned that there could be confusion around the larger daycare licensing and the business licence required by the city. Admin said they could look to clarify that further.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who initiated this work, along with potential land use changes to allow for more childcare spaces, said the city stepped in where the province didn’t.

“To answer the question of why were provincial elected representatives not contacted – they were, as a matter of fact,” she said.

“The grieving parents of Mackenzy Woolfsmith engaged with the Ministry several times. So, I would have to say my cache as an elected official is far less than the parents who lost their child, who received zero cooperation from the ministry.”

The bylaw goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023. The initial fee is $172 for the licence, plus the cost of background checks. Annual renewal fees will be $131, city admin said.