Parents, child care staff, and child care advocates called today for the provincial government to finally come through on its 2003 promise to fund child care.
“We are still waiting,” said Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “We’re here today, at the site of the original announcement, to remind the Premier of his pre-election commitment - a promise that Ontario parents and the child care sector have not forgotten.”
The 2003 funding promise, made at Withrow Child Care Centre in Toronto in 2003, gave a ray of hope to parents, child care programs and advocates after severe cuts to provincial child care during the Harris-Eves governments.
Three budgets later, the promised funds have yet to materialize, and child care programs across the province are facing the very real prospect of cuts to services, quality and in some cases, closure.
“Ontario’s child care system doesn’t have enough child care spaces, and the spaces that we do have are not affordable for most families,” said Sue Cumming, a member of the Withrow Child Care Centre parent board. “Here at Withrow Child Care, we made the difficult decision to close our waiting list because we did not want to give parents in the neighbourhood false hope that they would be able to get a space. Meanwhile, other programs are struggling to fill spaces that parents in their communities can’t afford. This is a real crisis.”
Despite this looming crisis, there are no indications as yet that the Liberal provincial government intends to come through on its promise of $300 million for the province’s early learning and child care system in the upcoming spring budget. There have been no new provincial investments in early learning and child care in over ten years.
An infusion of provincial funding dedicated to early learning and child care is urgently needed to address:
● Access and affordability for families and long waiting lists for children
● Sustainability of child care programs, and improving their quality
● A severe shortage of qualified child care professionals, and difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff
Existing early learning and child care programs that were established or recently expanded under Best Start were able to do so because of the federal funding from the federal-provincial child care agreements. The cancellation of that funding, and the continuing lack of new provincial funding, mean that parents will continue to struggle to find affordable, high-quality, non-profit spaces for their children.
"The province’s Best Start plan is failing to address long-standing funding shortfalls – a situation made worse by not providing funding beyond 2010 for the 14,000 new Best Start spaces created with federal dollars. This is creating greater instability and further erosion of quality programs," said OCBCC President Shellie Bird. “Child care in Ontario is more fragile and unstable than ever mainly because the provincial government has failed to make good on its election promise to put more provincial funding into the system," said Bird.