Get the Facts About Child Care Policy And Funding in Ontario


On August 20, Ontario’s new PC government took an important step toward alleviating licensed child care shortages across the province. It removed a Ministry of Education policy that sought to prevent licensed child care centres that are run as small businesses from serving families in receipt of fee subsidy, or from lowering parent fees.

In 2017, the Wynne government introduced what it called the “for-profit threshold” policy. The policy forced municipalities to reduce and ultimately eliminate all Provincial funding from flowing into licensed child care centres run as small businesses, even if those centres were serving families in receipt of fee subsidy. Wynne’s policy resulted in the closure of many licensed child care centres, some of which had served their communities for decades. It also caused many licensed child care owner/operators to reconsider expansion plans. A number of municipalities actively opposed the policy as being detrimental to their citizens’ ability to access licensed care.

“By eliminating the so-called “for-profit threshold” policy, the Ford government has taken a practical step that helps both families and small businesses across Ontario,” says Andrea Hannen, Operations Manager with the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario (ADCO). “It also makes great financial sense, as it marks a move away from the Wynne government’s practice of using taxpayer dollars to drive existing licensed centres out of business, only to replace them with new public sector facilities."

By creating a more level playing field, all licensed child care centres have a better chance at success, which means a wider range of choices for families and more innovation in the sector as a whole.

ONTARIO ELECTION 2018--A PARENTS' GUIDE TO PARTY PLATFORMSThe 2018 Provincial election will mean major changes in child care policy and funding in Ontario. It's important to go beyond the promises of "free preschool" or "$12 per day" child care fees. The fact is, it's a lot easier to promise these things, than it is to deliver them. And, any such heavy-handed intervention by Government is likely to come at a very high price, both in terms of the taxes Ontario families pay, and in the availability, affordability and quality of licensed child care. Currently more than a quarter of Ontario's licensed child care spaces are in the independent licensed child care sector. During the five-year roll-out of the Provincial government's full-day kindergarten program, hundreds of independent licensed child care centres closed. Despite all of the hype surrounding the full-day kindergarten program, licensed child care didn't wind up costing less or being easier to find as a result. In fact, some school boards charge nearly as much for "wrap-around care" (the portion of the day before and after regular school hours) as centres in the same area charge for a complete day of licensed care, which includes a hot meal and two snacks. This blow to parental choice and child care affordability could easily happen again. To learn more about the three major party platforms and how they are likely to impact the availability, affordability and quality of licensed child care in Ontario, please see A Parents' Guide to Party Platforms.

Why Ontario's New Minimum Wage Means You Pay More For Child CareOn June 1, 2017, Kathleen Wynne's Liberal Government introduced Bill 148. The Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act  passed and raised Ontario's minimum wage to $14.00/hour in January of 2018. This, combined with Ontario government funding cuts to independent licensed child care centres left many centres with no choice but to raise fees or close their doors as of January 1, 2018. As this situation was unfolding, Todd and Amy Taus, owner/operators of a licensed child care in Mississauga explained the situation to the Toronto Star. The new minimum wage drove up the labour costs paid by all employers, including licensed child care centres, and raised the prices of most goods and services Ontario families buy. Senior officials within Kathleen Wynne's Ministry of Education acknowledged in June of 2017 that the cost of licensed child care in Ontario would increase by up to 20%. A few months later, the Ministry announced that a very small amount of funding would be made available to help offset some of these costs, but made no information available about how municipalities or child care centres could access it. This left most licensed child care centres with no choice other than to raise parent fees. Others simply closed their doors. Gail Ardiel of Collingwood Little People's Day Care explained her decision to CTV news.

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 2018/2019 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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