Quebec summer camps struggling to find staff, keep up with rising costs

School's out for the summer, and, normally, that would mean camp season is getting into full swing.

This year, however, camps are facing staffing shortages and rising costs, and some have had to cut back on spaces leaving families in the lurch.

YMCA Quebec regional director of camps Sean Day has dedicated his career to creating memories at summer camps and said children need them in the summer.

"There's all sorts of research that shows that kids who go to camp or do family vacations keep all the learnings in school, and if they don't, they lose it," said Day.

Day said that camps are feeling the squeeze, and most don't have enough staff for the entire summer.

"We've had to be more flexible, more flexible than we have been in past years about their ability to be with us for the whole season, so we've had to train more staff but who have to take some time off during the summer," said Day.

The YMCA has also given everyone a raise, and has had trouble finding staff for camps for children with special needs.

"We haven't been able to offer the same number of spaces that we usually do for children with different needs," said Day.

Lori-Ann Zemanovich runs an autism community organization and says parents in need of respite this summer have very few places to turn.

"Everybody is kind of scrambling and looking for summer camps," said Zemanovich. "I'm noticing where a lot of the programs where I would have otherwise referred a family to go to, well, you go to their program and what's advertised on their Facebook page is that they're looking to hire."

Gas prices are almost double what they were last summer, meaning camps are limited as to what they can offer.

"We're still going to run a great camp, but we've had to put a little water in our wine in terms of the kind of outings that we do," said Day. "The cost of outings that we would normally do has gone up hugely. The cost of transporting kids to those outings has also gone up, so we've had to be a bit more creative about what we can find."

Day said the YMCA had to raise its prices slightly this year to cover added costs, and camps will still struggle to break even.

Governments, he added, may need to do more next year to keep summer camps affordable for all kids.

"Camps are an essential service, and I think we really need to think as a society how we are supporting that to make sure that everybody who needs it gets the access they need to help their kids grow and learn," said Day.