Today’s Ontario budget wastes a golden opportunity be a provincial leader on developing the national early learning and child care plan that Ontario families need. A chapter in the Ontario budget that details Ontario’s priorities for collaborative action with the federal government is silent on the National Early Learning and Child Care Framework promised by the Trudeau government.
In the past, Ontario has claimed to be eager to work with any willing federal partner on a national child care plan, but early learning and child care gets no mention in a 15-page chapter listing the Ontario government’s priorities for intergovernmental collaboration.
“The Ontario government is squandering its chance to make real progress on early learning and child care.” said Carolyn Ferns, Public Policy Coordinator of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “Families that believed Ontario would prioritize work on a national early learning and child care plan will be bitterly disappointed by this reversal.”
Heavy on re-announcements of past years’ work, the budget points to a government seemingly content to rest on the laurels of full-day kindergarten (FDK), rather than seeing FDK as it was always intended in Early Learning Advisor Charles Pascal’s vision – as just the first step in moving to a seamless system of early learning and care. Re-announcements of past capital investments also mask the absence of new money.
A growing storm: Mounting opposition to Ontario’s child care regulations
Today’s Ontario budget claims that the government is committed to improving child care’s regulatory framework and to “setting higher standards for health and safety of children.” But the Ministry of Education’s most recent regulatory posting is meeting mounting opposition from the child care sector for threatening both quality and access.
The regulation posting proposes redefining age groups resulting in younger children placed in larger groups, more needless transitions for our youngest children, and more burnout for the child care workforce – all of which threaten the quality of child care programs for our youngest children. Municipalities and operators are also warning that the changes could result in fewer centre-based spaces for families, especially the loss of infant programs for children under 1 year of age – a concern for the many families unable to take a full-year of maternity and parental leave.
“Rather than setting higher standards, these regulation proposals actually threaten quality. It’s the third time the government has tried to force these kinds of proposals on the child care sector. We will continue to resist regulation changes that water down the quality of care for Ontario’s children.” said Ferns.
Crisis ignored: Sky high parent fees
This year’s budget sees no new money for funding provided through the funding formula. The budget claims that last year’s modest investment helped “avoid sudden and rapid fluctuations to fees”, but for the second year in a row, Ontario has topped the list of highest and least affordable parent fees in Canada, with long wait lists for subsidy in many communities.
A recent report on parent fees across Canada found that the seven most expensive cities for child care are all in Ontario. Compare the $987 per month Ottawa parents pay for a preschool space with the average fee of $174 per month in Gatineau, Quebec.
“Today’s budget ignores the affordability crisis facing Ontario’s parents. We have the least affordable parent fees in the country and long waitlists for fee subsidies in many areas.” said Ferns. “Ontario can still get serious about early learning and child care, but it will take more than re-announcements. We need to see a real commitment to a principles-based national framework.”
Public Policy and Government Relations Coordinator
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
416-538-0628 x 4 / cell: 647-218-1275