TORONTO— Child care spaces in Ontario will be protected despite the end of a federal subsidy because of a $63.5-million investment in the budget, the government said Thursday, March 25.
Even though the Liberals had warned they couldn't stop-gap every funding hole left when a federal program ends, they came up with the money needed to keep 8,500 child-care spaces.
Critics had warned valuable spots would be lost without new funds. They also worried that the problem would only be aggravated when Ontario moves ahead with its plan to bring in full-day kindergarten for four and five year olds.
Federal funding under the Early Learning and Child Care Agreement ended in 2006-07 with a final bulk payment of $253 million to the province. Ontario elected to spread that funding out over four years, with the money coming to an end this year.
While the $63.5-million annual investment will provide some relief to parents worried about spaces for their children, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it's just a Band-Aid that fails to address the larger problem.
"The government doesn't have a transition plan in place to deal with the fact that four and five year olds are going to be pulled out of child-care centres and that's going to destabilize those centres," said Horwath.
"The funding is not enough to be able to keep enough workers for the smaller children."
About 35,000 kids will be able to enrol in full-day kindergarten next September, which the Liberals promised to expand to 50,000 kids in 2011 and to all eligible children by 2015 at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion a year.
The government said it was disappointed that Ottawa declined to continue its daycare funding, but added the new provincial funding would help 1,000 child-care workers keep their jobs.