Though Liberty Village is a neighborhood associated with many things, one area in which it is severely lacking is in child care facilities. As the number of families in the community has doubled since the mid-2000s, many families new to Liberty Village have struggled in finding appropriate child care services.
Recently, there was a town hall hosted in Liberty Village by MPP Han Dong, outlining details of a $1.6 billion dollar commitment supporting the creation of more than 45,000 spaces in publicly-owned buildings across Ontario. As some of these spaces will be created in Liberty Village, this is good news for the neighborhood which some have called as being in an “extreme child care crisis.”
Though the future is promising, present-day Liberty Village is continuing to have trouble accommodating families. There are few businesses, if any, set up for infant care, toddler care, and/or preschool. There are countless stories of parents who have moved into the neighborhood due to its many advantages but who are shocked to come to find that there is little infrastructure to accommodate young children. Parents are having to wait months and sometimes more than a year to secure a spot at one of the few child care facilities in the community.
These issues were brought up in a July, 2017 town hall meeting with Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care, and Trinity-Spadina MPP Han Dong. Speaking in response to hearing out concerns related to accessibility and affordability of neighborhood-based child care services, Naidoo-Harris said, “I didn’t realize how critical the issue is and the magnitude of the problem.”
To address the current demand, Naidoo-Harris and other members of government are looking for solutions, spaces, and options. Among the recommendations have been the old heritage building in Liberty Village Park, moving the police out of its current space and using this building for neighborhood childcare services, and re-developing parts of the parking lot at Lamport Stadium and Exhibition Place. Though there are no plans to begin developing these areas as of yet, all recommendations are being considered.
Three Priorities for Liberty Village Childcare
Among the array of issues and priorities at play for childcare in Liberty Village, there are three main areas that most have agreed upon as building blocks for the future. Affordability is key as there needs to be focus put on offering childcare to residents of all economic backgrounds. Access is evidently the main priority as there are not enough childcare services offered here. Meanwhile, there is a lack of incentives and support for daycare service providers who are both established and emerging in Liberty Village. These three priorities are clear moving forward.
Can Liberty Village be the West End’s City Place Neighborhood?
Trinity-Spadina MPP Han Dong has stated that he would like to model Liberty Village as similar to the current City Place neighborhood at Bathurst-Front, which has a Catholic school, public school, community centre, and designated library space – all of which is something that planning in Liberty Village has lacked. The City of Toronto is, in part, to blame according to some parents for failing to make child care spaces a mandatory piece of development proposals in Liberty Village.
The neighborhood is hopeful that Ontario’s $1.6 billion commitment over the next five years to developing and opening 45,000 affordable child care spaces will have some sort of impact on childcare in Liberty Village. With no schools, no community centre, no library, and no significant City of Toronto presence in Liberty Village, much of the development in recent years has been through the private sector. Many parents continue to argue for more family-friendly activities however so far, the neighborhood has only responded with the unofficial allowance of unlicensed daycares.
The Future of Liberty Village Might be Family
Though most of the Liberty Village crowd is still young, more and more Toronto neighborhoods such as Liberty Village are seeing an uptick in families that is not expected to dissipate anytime soon. As new proposals have been submitted for condo developments and new legislation has come to guide these developments, the inclusion of child care services and ensuring that units are family-friendly are both central points. Though movement is slowly being made, it cannot come fast enough for the parents who are continuing to have difficulty finding quality child care services in Liberty Village. There are no doubt big changes that lie ahead for the neighborhood.