It was a trade-off. Campeau Corp., a Toronto-based development company, wanted more square footage for a 68-storey building project than the Toronto city planning department permitted. The planning department, which saw a need for more day care centres, proposed a bargain. The city gave Campeau permission to increase its space to 1.5 million square feet from one million square feet in its Scotia Plaza tower. In return, Campeau agreed to many concessions, including the building of two downtown day care centres—one adjacent to the tower, which will open in 1988, and another in Campeau’s nearby Waterpark Place office tower, which opened in September. Campeau paid the Waterpark centre’s $375,000 construction and furnishing costs and agreed to provide maintenance and rent for 25 years—at an estimated cost of more than $5 million—to its operators, the Early Childhood Education program of the George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology. But while corporate day care centres are a new concept in Canada, developers and employers are beginning to perceive them as a form of good corporate citizenship.
Losses: While only a small percentage of private sector employers provide on-site day care Doyle services, some of the pioneers in the field are pleased with the results. Lavalin Inc., a Montreal engineering firm, initiated its program in 1981 and the firm now provides services for 60 children. It will be opening a new centre for 20 children in rented space in a downtown church near its headquarters, but will still have a waiting list of 20. According to Suzanne Boyd, administrator of the Lavalin day care program, the idea originated with some of the firm’s mid-level management women. Said Boyd: “When we first thought of it, only 19 people said they needed the service, but once it started the response was amazing.”
But day care is expensive. The Lavalin centre costs $300,000 a year to operate. The province pays 20 per cent of
the cost, Lavalin’s 1,400 employees subsidize another 30 per cent through payroll deductions, and the company provides the remaining $150,000. Fees average $240 per month for each child, compared to as much as $420 per month at Montreal community centres. At Waterpark Place the monthly fees range from $360 for junior kindergarten to $515 for infants. Still, Pamela
Doyle-Easton, supervisor of George Brown’s day care centre at Waterpark Place, estimates that the college could lose $10,000 in its first year.
Obvious: For developers, one of the chief incentives for building day care centres is to win zoning concessions. But for employers the main motivation is to keep workers happy. In Winnipeg the 350-employee Western Glove Works Ltd. is currently building a new factory with child care facilities. Said company president Bob Silver: “A good percentage of our employees are women. Building an on-site day care centre seemed like an obvious thing to do.”
The industrial complex of auto-parts giant Magna International Inc. in Newmarket, Ont., includes five plants
and a head office, an employee recreation centre, a trade school and the 9,000-square-foot Newpark Day Care Centre. The centre, in operation since July, now has 47 children and is licensed for 98. Magna paid the centre’s $l-million start-up costs with the assistance of a $55,000 grant from the Ontario government. Parents pay an average of $200 per month per child— about half the cost—and Magna pays the rest. Said centre director Wendy Campbell: “It’s nice for parents to know their children are close by. It gives people a real sense of security.” Benefits: The benefits of corporate day care are impressive. Parents can visit their children on breaks and can respond quickly in the event of an emergency. As well, day care helps companies to reduce absenteeism and turnover. Still, only large corporations have
the resources to provide such facilities. Despite the limitations, on-site day care may be a partial solution to the problem of caring for the children of working parents. But Doyle-Easton points out that Campeau’s decision to build the centre was not an act of generosity. “We have exactly the space that the law specifies. These are minimum standards. But Campeau has lived up to its part of the bargain,” said Doyle-Easton. Still, she added, “it would be nice to have employers see the benefits of day care and provide centres of their own volition.” Clearly, corporate day care is still in its formative years.
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