Heated council debate brings tears of relief from daycare manager

Heated council debate brings tears of relief from daycare manager
Chelsea Raso and Peter Gervais at Tuesday's council meeting.

CORNWALL, Ontario – A long-winded, heated city council debate on whether to green-light a service agreement with a Cornwall daycare reduced one woman to tears of relief Tuesday night.

Chelsea Raso, administrator at Sun Rise and Shine Daycare, openly wept after councillors finally agreed to direct the mayor and clerk to sign documents that would allow the agency to purchase child care services for 47 spots for families seeking subsidies from the province.

“I’m just so emotional. I didn’t expect that,” she said of a council debate that saw plenty of finger-pointing and heated exchanges between councillors both for, and against, the decision.

Council ultimately allowed the daycare’s desire to be listed as an approved facility that has subsidized spaces, but not before councillors against the move fumed over what they feel are too many open daycare spots in Cornwall.

The chief problem lies in the belief among some councillors that there are already too many daycare vacancies in Cornwall – more than 260.

“We’re sending the wrong message,” said Coun. Andre Rivette. “We have 10 good daycares.”

But Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy, who left the role as chair of the meeting to speak on the matter on a number of occasions, thundered away in his opposition to Rivette’s sentiment.

“This costs us nothing,” he said. “We should not be picking winners and losers.”

And in reality, the vacant daycare spaces are centred mostly on older children, including preschoolers.

Daycare owner Peter Gervais said there are no vacancies for infants aged up to 12 months, which some of his spots will be used for.

Raso was upset because she and Gervais were under the assumption that the council decision Monday night was essentially a no-brainer.

“The manager signed off on it,” she said, referring to Shared Service Manager Myles Cassidy who approved of the city agreeing to the plan to grant subsidized spaces to the daycare.

“We couldn’t believe what we were hearing,” said Gervais.

City council was tapped with making the decision because the province transferred the service management delivery of child care to Cornwall in 1999.

Councillors Bernadette Clement, Maurice Dupelle and Rivette voted against the move, while the balance of council agreed to it.

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