Recently, Whitehorse City Council has been doing a lot of pearl clutching when it comes to the idea of a proposed new daycare downtown.
The spot – attached to the Days Inn – used to be a nightclub and by the way some people are reacting you’d think the club was still active and that toddlers at this new daycare were going to be trained as child labour to serve dirty martinis and pints of Yukon Gold in the evenings.
Club 867 is long closed. The building can, and presumably will, be renovated. No children would be tripping over kegs on their way to nap time.
When you consider the age of many of the buildings downtown, Whitehorse cannot afford to start judging potential new businesses based on what their locations were used for in a previous life.
More importantly, it’s also not up to Whitehorse City Council to parent other people’s children.
Provided that the building is considered safe – something that will be assessed by the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services before giving out an operating licence – the fact that this spot used to be a club should not be a part of the decision-making process.
It’s worth noting another daycare about 500 metres from the proposed new spot. The piece of land in question may need to be rezoned, but it is not far from where children are already being cared for.
Council has also questioned why daycares are considering commercial spots where there may not be as much immediate access to green-space as you would find in a residential neighbourhood.
The owners say they plan to have a large indoor play area and an outdoor area with Astroturf and sand.
Downtown daycare operators have the option of taking the children elsewhere for outdoor time, which is presumably why the daycare owner in question reportedly has a large van.
For some families having a downtown daycare location is ideal. Downtown locations are easier to access by transit. Adults who work downtown may choose a daycare that is closer to the office to facilitate easier pick-ups and drop-offs and so that they can be nearby in case of emergency.
Daycares are not like schools. When choosing where to build a school governments have to pick carefully because, for the most part, parents are forced to send their kids to the school in their catchment area.
In this case it will be up to parents to decide whether this location is where they want to send their kids.
It’s difficult to know how much the City of Whitehorse needs more daycare spaces. The Yukon Department of Health and Social Services doesn’t track a waitlist of children trying to get into daycare. But city staff say they’ve seen three zoning amendment applications for daycares in the last 14 months.
This city council is new. It may be that councillors feel it is their job to imagine the worst-case scenarios that could come with every new decision so that the city can be seen as doing its due diligence.
There are hills worth dying on, but this is not one of them. If Yukon parents think this location is a good idea, it will thrive. If not, it won’t.