In a provincial election that is understandably focused on jobs and the economy, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath deserves credit for shining a spotlight on a vital service that helps society thrive: a safe and sustainable child care system.
Such a system doesn’t exist in Ontario now. Yes, there are licensed day care centres, but many parents face long waiting lists, high fees and the risk that their centre will close due to various reasons – including chronic government underfunding of an estimated $300 million a year.
Despite Premier Kathleen Wynne’s $269-million budget proposal for a $2-an-hour boost to day-care workers’ wages, and Horwath’s promise to spend $100 million on the centres, no leader is talking about a long-term strategy for survival for the struggling $900-million system.
It’s unfortunate, because a healthy day-care system can help the economy thrive. Think about it: parents assured of a safe, affordable place for their child can actually go to a job that (hopefully) gives them enough disposable income to contribute to the economy.
Additional day-care spaces would offer ob opportunitiesthat are the talk of the campaign and, perhaps most important as our economy relies on an educated workforce, children benefit from early education at a time when their brains are still wired for learning.
Indeed, as the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten has reported, TD Economics estimates that every dollar invested in early learning and child care returns between 1.5 and 3 dollars to the economy. After its 2012 report was published, TD Bank Chief Economist Craig Alexander said, “It’s very much an economic topic. If you are concerned with skills development, productivity and innovation, you should really care about this subject.”