Get the Facts About Child Care Policy And Funding in Ontario

What The Proposed New Minimum Wage Will Mean For ParentsOn June 1, 2017, Kathleen Wynn's Liberal Government introduced Bill 148. The Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act  has now passed and will raise Ontario's minimum wage to $14.00/hour in January of 2018. This is likely to mean that some families who currently qualify for fee subsidy to help them secure licensed child care will no longer qualify. While it may push them out of fee subsidy eligibility, it will not necessarily raise their incomes enough to allow them to purchase licensed child care. Women are the most likely to be impacted by such a change. It is anticipated that this will force some to make the hard choice of either relying on precarious, informal care arrangements, or leaving paid employment to stay home with their children full-time. By not only driving up the labour costs paid by all employers, including licensed child care centres, an increased minimum wage is likely to raise the prices of most goods and services. Even sources within the Ministry of Education have acknowledged that the cost of licensed child care in Ontario is likely to increase by up to 20%. There is no question that the dedicated teams who work in licensed child care centres deserve a wage hike. However, the money has to come from somewhere and unless the Government takes steps to help all licensed child care operators adjust to these higher costs, parents will pay the price. Todd and Amy Taus, owner/operators of a licensed child care program in Mississauga recently explained the situation to the Toronto Star.Since Bill 148 has become law, Kathleen Wynne's government has announced some very limited funding for licensed child care programs to help offset some of the costs associated with the wage hike. However, the Ministry has not yet issued any guidelines about how this funds will be distributed, or if they will go to all centres. Given the minimal amount of the funding package, and the fact that no information about it has been made available to licensed child care centres, most have had no choice but to notify parents that their fees will be going up in January of 2018.

The Liberal Election Promise of "Universal Child Care"On June 6, 2017, Kathleen Wynne's Liberal Government announced a dramatically expanded "system" of child care in Ontario. However, some experts are already pointing out that the Liberal plan is a lot like the one tried in Quebec some 20 years ago--a plan that has since failed. A recent statement from the Montreal Economic Institute points out that from 1998 to 2015, the cost to Quebec's taxpayers went up by nearly 800%, but the number of available spaces only tripled, leaving many families languishing on waiting lists. In 2008 alone, the taxpayer cost of unionizing home-based child care providers was over a billion dollars. Closer to home, the Ontario PCs are questioning the Liberal Government's capacity to deliver on their recent child care promises. In an official statement, PC children and youth services critic Gila Martow said: "currently the licensed day care sector provides spaces for little more than 20 per cent of children. The Wynne Liberals have no plan to pay for this promise, and they won't be accountable for it until years down the road." While that may be true, an April 28 Provincial Government memo to municipalities suggested that the current Government plans to funnel money away from existing licensed child care programs into the new government-run programs it plans to announce leading up to the 2018 election. If implemented, this move will drive up child care costs for most Ontario families and leave all families with even fewer licensed child care choices. A recent article published by the North Bay Nugget illustrates this point. In a subsequent news item, published by the same paper a few days later, the Provincial Government announced that it would be spending an additional $2.7 million to create 57 new child care spaces in North Bay's Woodland Public School. The school is located within roughly five km of several of the licensed child care centres that have been notified their funding is being reduced. Some municipalities have continued to try to negotiate with the Province on these issues and are attempting to preserve the availability and range of licensed child care choices available to families in their communities. However, a number of licensed child care owner/operators have already closed their doors or are planning to in advance of the start of the 2017/2018 school year.

The Child Care & Early Years ActThe Ontario Minister of Education tabled Bill 10--The Child Care Modernization Act-- in July of 2014. After the Bill passed, the Liberal Government issued new regulations that came into force in August of 2015. Parents, educators, child care providers and Opposition MPPs have all expressed serious concerns about the Act and the fact that the Government curtailed debate about it. Some parents report feeling that the Act has pushed them into reliance on larger, institutionalized care settings, rather than respecting the broadest range of parental choices. The Act gave municipal governments the right to weigh in on Provincial licensing decisions. Since many municipalities run their own licensed child care programs, this is a clear conflict of interest. The Act also imposed new restrictions on the licensed child care sector, allowing Ministry employees to impose penalties of up to $100,000 for a contravention of the Act, with the only right of appeal being a review by another "designated senior employee” from the same Ministry. While it has dramatically increased the cost of providing licensed child care, the new Act has done little to prevent overcrowded, illegal day cares from operating, which is why the Government introduced Bill 10 in the first place.

What You Can Do If you're concerned about the Ontario Government's current child care policy or recently announced expansion plans, or are experiencing increasingly limited or expensive child care options,  please let your MPP know. While a letter that you print and mail is generally more effective, even a quick email can help. You can find your MPP's contact information here. Please copy ADCO on your letter as well, so that we can more fully understand the challenges you are facing.





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