Transformative change for early years and child care in Ontario: From market patchwork to system

Feb 03, 2017

Read the OCBCC's Submission in response to Ontario's child care consultations and their discussion paper “Building a better future: A discussion paper on transforming early years and child care in Ontario”.

Excerpts from the submission:

Ontario’s 2016 Throne Speech commitment to create 100,000 new licensed child care spaces for children 0-4 years is a promise that has the potential to transform Ontario’s early years and child care situation. But only if we invest strongly and build wisely will we realize the potential of this promise. Adding spaces alone, even 100,000 new spaces, does not in itself achieve system change. It merely replicates our current patchwork on a larger scale. To truly achieve an early years and child care system that works for Ontario families, we need action to make child care affordable for all families and to make programs sustainable – not struggling to keep their doors open and pay their educators. We need to truly transform child care in Ontario from a market patchwork to a comprehensive system.

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Here in Ontario, through this current consultation process, we have seen a newfound unity and consensus about some of the critical priorities to move forward to a more affordable, accessible, responsive and quality system.

Challenge: Affordabilty. Solution: Base funding and an affordable fee scale

There is good evidence to suggest that Ontario’s fee subsidy system is not the best way to address affordability. It’s not only a broken mechanism, but an archaic approach – leaving too many families struggling to pay full fees or languishing on waiting lists.

There is wide agreement that addressing the issue of affordability is best accomplished by base funding programs to break the invisible thread between parent fees and centre budgets. As long as centre budgets and in turn staff wages remain so strongly tied to parent fees, we will always experience a tension between making fees affordable for parents and paying staff decently. A better and more modern approach is base funding programs and setting an affordable, geared to income, sliding fee scale. 

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Challenge: Quality. Solution: Address structural factors that impact quality

The Ministry’s discussion paper asks us to consider what role the province should play in ensuring high quality early learning and child care programs. Quality of early learning and child care programs is a topic with a robust research literature, both international and local. The government itself already struck a Best Start Expert Panel on Quality in 2007. Rather than being drawn into a long process of defining and improving quality at the program level, when robust evidence already exists, the government’s first priority should be to address the big, structural elements that impact quality. This should include two key elements: better support for the early childhood workforce, and flowing new funding and spaces only to public and non-profit programs. 

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