GET THE FACTS ABOUT CHILD CARE IN ONTARIO


How the System Works

The Ontario Ministry of Education is responsible for the funding, licensing and regulation of child care. Under the Child Care and Early Years Act, the Ministry of Education ensures that all licensed child care centres adhere to the same basic standards regarding safety, cleanliness, group sizes, staff/child ratios, nutrition, etc. Licensed child care centres may be run as small or large businesses, as not-for-profits, or be owned and operated by a municipal government.

The Provincial full-day kindergarten program offered by school boards is exempt from the Child Care and Early Years Act regulations. It also isn't free. Most school boards charge parents who need care beyond regular school hours additional fees. Additionally, the group sizes in the Provincial full-day kindergarten program tend to be larger, the children's meals are not included in the price, and children as young as 3.8 years of age may have to make a lengthy school bus commute with much older children in order to attend.

Ontario’s 47 municipal governments are responsible for “managing” the licensed child care system in their jurisdictions. They receive taxpayer funding in excess of $1.6 billion per year to do this. While municipalities are supposed to adhere to Provincial guidelines that dictate how this money gets allocated, the Provincial guidelines are very loose and there is no transparency regarding enforcement. The result is that for over 15 years now, Ontario has had 47 different flavours of child care policy. Whether or not your family qualifies for or actually receives a fee subsidy to help you with your child care costs depends largely on where you live and how good a steward your municipality is of the Provincial funds it receives for child care. 

Some municipalities waste nearly 30% of the funds they receive on redundant “make-work” projects for their own staff, including running “quality assurance” programs that do nothing but replicate Provincial licensing standards. Others restrict families in receipt of fee subsidy from accessing the services of Provincially licensed day care centres that are run as businesses, even if these centres are more convenient for families and would cost less for taxpayers. Some municipalities pump large amounts of money into centres they own and operate, or to national “charitable” organizations that use child care to fund other activities, including lobbying at all levels of government. All of these issues are the result of what is called “supply-side” funding. It’s great if you want to grow the size and cost of government, but not so great if you want to make licensed child care better and more affordable for parents.

In April of 2019, the Ford government introduced the CARE tax credit. The CARE tax credit is a “demand-side” funding solution, in that it puts parents in the driver’s seat. Depending on your income, you can receive a tax credit for up to 75% of your receipted child care expenses, up to $6000 per child under age seven. While the CARE tax credit isn’t necessarily the perfect solution for every family, it could make a major difference to yours. You can learn more here.

For further information about licensed child care in Ontario, please see the following:

More Child Care Centres in Schools Won’t Help Parents

Municipal Waste Drives Up Child Care Costs

Time to Restore Child Care Choice In Ontario

City Policy Leaves Hundreds of Day Care Spots Unfilled


Hold Your Municipal Officials Accountable

You may not realize it, but the policies your Mayor and municipal councillors make for administering Provincial child care dollars has a major impact on whether or not you'll be able to find a licensed child care space when you need one. Generally speaking, in areas where municipalities treat all Provincially licensed child care programs equally, accessing licensed child care is easier and more affordable for all families. If municipal officials favor some centres over others, the municipality owns and operates its own licensed centres, or attempts to limit child care expansion to the public or not-for-profit sector, child care becomes harder to find and more expensive for all families in the area, whether or not they are reliant on fee subsidy.

This is why it's so important to hold your Mayor and municipal councillors accountable for their child care decisions. If your city or town has a policy that favours some Provincially licensed centres over others, or that expressly discriminates against Provincially licensed centres that are run as small businesses, ask local officials what they will do to change this policy. Here in Ontario, all Provincially licensed child care centres have to follow the same rules and achieve the same regulatory standards. This has been the case for more than 40 years, so there is no justification for discrimination. If you live in an area such as Toronto or Ottawa that is still playing favourites, tell your local officials it's time to start respecting parental choice and to put families first.



If you are a parent and have a concern about how your municipality manages your local child care system, please let us know.


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