Get the Facts About Child Care Policy And Funding in Ontario

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.


The owners and operators of Ontario's independent licensed child care centres are cautioning parents that the Government's proposed plan for "free" preschool could result in the closure of hundreds of licensed child care centres across the province. Independent licensed child care centres account for roughly a third of Ontario's child care spaces and include centres run as small businesses, and by churches and other not-for-profit community group.No details have been made available to the centres that currently provide preschool services. If the Government's plan is to include them in the new program and simply help families with their child care costs, this could prompt some centres to expand at their own expense. However, if the Government's plan is to replace some or all of these centres with new spaces based in schools, like it did with the full-day kindergarten program, many families will be left scrambling. It will also mean that the cost of new space creation will fall entirely on Ontario's taxpayers. The question is really whether this election promise is actually designed to support parents, or just to a plan to replace licensed child care centres run as small businesses or by neighbourhood groups with public sector spaces controlled by big labour.The roll-out of the full-day kindergarten program forced hundreds of small independent licensed child care programs to close, resulting in fewer licensed child care choices for families. It also drove up the cost of licensed child care. Some school boards now charge families as much for wrap-around care (the portion of the day before and after the regular school day) as independent licensed centres charge for a full day of care, which includes a hot meal and two snacks.Since school boards are exempt from the Child Care and Early Years Act, the children enrolled in these programs are subject to a much wider range of risks. Despite the integration of these younger children into the public school system, the Government has continued to close neighbourhood schools across the province. This means that more children are being bussed to school and parents have fewer opportunities to be involved in their children's education.The bottom line? We've seen promises like this before--for instance in the early 1990's under Bob Rae's NDP government. Parents need to understand there is no such thing as "free," particularly where licensed child care is involved. Whether it comes in the form of parent fees, or is hidden behind higher taxes, the money still comes out of your pocket. If the current election promise of "free" preschool results in more government debt, the cost will also be passed along to your children.

Why Ontario's New Minimum Wage Means You Pay More For Child Care
On 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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