Independent child care providers can currently watch up to five children, not counting their own.
The bill would also limit independent providers to caring for no more than two children under the age of two at a time, and would change the definition of a child, for the purpose of the limits, from 10 to 13.
“Those three regulations would make it very difficult for us to operate,” said Sheena Nagy, an independent child care provider and team lead in Sudbury for the Coalition of Independent Childcare Providers of Ontario, which was formed to oppose the bill.
Nagy said the more strict limits on the number of children independent providers can care for at a time would make it difficult for many of her colleagues to make a living.
The province has said the bill would update the Day Nurseries Act, which was enacted in 1946 and has not been comprehensively reviewed since 1983.
The proposed amendments to the act would give the province the power to issue administrative penalties up to $100,000 per infraction to all child care providers.
The province would also be given the authority to immediately stop a child care provider from operating in circumstances where a child's safety is at risk.
The amendments would increase the maximum penalty for offences under the act to $250,000. The current maximum penalty is $2,000.
Under the proposed bill, the number of children that licensed home child care providers could care for would increase from five to six. If all current licensed home child care providers added one additional space, it would create around 6,000 new licensed child care spaces, the province has said.
Nagy said the Coalition of Independent Childcare Providers of Ontario agrees the Day Nurseries Act needs to be updated. In fact, she said, the coalition has proposed a government-run registry to account for all unlicensed daycare providers, and for the imposition of minimum safety standards, such as obligatory CPR training. The coalition is also in favour of regular inspections of independent child care providers.
Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Nepean-Carleton, was in Sudbury for Sunday's demonstration, and said the Child Care Modernization Act could increase child care costs in Ontario by 30 to 40 per cent.
Fewer daycare spaces would drive up costs, she said.
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop, the Progressive Conservative education critic, was also in Sudbury Sunday, and said unlicensed child care workers care for nearly 80 per cent of children in Ontario who receive daycare.
“In the end they provide a good service with very few problems, or deaths, or anything like that in a long history,” he said.
Elyse Chamberland, a local parent, said she relies on an independent child care provider to watch her infant son.
“I'm a nurse and my husband works for CN, so we're both shift workers,” Chamberland said. “City daycares and school based daycares cannot accommodate our hours.”
If the Child Care Modernization Act passes Chamberland said she would probably lose her son's daycare spot, and would no longer be able to work.
“I work with a ton of nurses that depend on independent daycares that can accommodate them,” she said.
The bill enters the committee stage Monday, where MPPs are expected to hear from parents, daycare providers and child care experts on how it should be amended.