On Wednesday, February 9th, NDP Education Critic Peter Tabuns asked Minister of Education Laurel Broten about her government's plan to protect Ontario from a wave of child care closures.In her response Minister Broten cited their investments in full day kindergarten and made no response with regards to the future of child care.Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question to the Minister of Education: What does the minister suggest members of this House tell parents who come to them with the information that their child care centre is being closed because of the poor implementation of all-day kindergarten?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I am pleased to stand and talk about the single largest investment that we’re making in early learning. All-day kindergarten, when fully invested, will be $1.5 billion. And each year, we respond to families who ask us, “When can my child be in all-day kindergarten?”
Despite challenging fiscal times we’ve made a determination that we will move forward with all-day kindergarten because it is in the best interest of all of our children to gain that early learning. I can tell you I’ve had a chance to speak to the member opposite about the work that we’re doing to make sure that we modernize and transform child care to reflect the new reality that our four and five-year-olds will be in school. They will no longer be in child care. So I invite the member to bring forward solutions to work with those families, as I have, to find a new pathway forward for child care in Ontario, one that puts our earliest learners first and continues to invest in them.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I have to tell you I don’t think parents are going to warm to that answer. Hundreds—hundreds—of child care centres in communities across Ontario closed since 2007. Hundreds more are at risk of closing as four and five-year-olds transition into full-day kindergarten. The minister has made it clear that investments in early learning are a priority and that full-day kindergarten will not be cut. So be it. Not a bad idea. Will she also assure parents of younger children that their child care centres will be there for them?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Speaker, I think it’s important, as we talk about the investments that this government has made to improve the lives of children, that we focus on the fact that our government, since 2003, has increased child care funding from $532 million to $869 million, a 63% increase. When the federal Conservative government stepped away from child care we stepped forward and we invested an additional $63.5 million. So I can tell you we have been focused on child care and on looking for solutions and we invite all members of this House to work with our government and with families in this province to acknowledge what will be a new reality come 2014. Four and five-year-olds will be in all-day kindergarten; that’s where they should be. Will we continue to support child care in this province? Will we continue to invest in it? Of course we could. I’ve invited the member opposite to give me his advice. I look forward to that advice.