Parents, staff and advocates are expressing their relief that the Ontario government has finally committed its own funds for early learning and child care in today’s budget.
“It looks like the government is starting to understand how important child care is in the lives of all Ontario families and children, and that a high quality child care system is essential to all families, especially low income families and parents trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “Although this is a step in the right direction, today’s announcement is a far cry from the $300 million promised almost four years ago.”
In 2003, Dalton McGuinty promised to fund early learning and child care with $300 million in provincial dollars. Since then, despite an escalating crisis in the child care system and repeated calls for that promise to be kept, the provincial government has failed to meet its own commitments. Ontario’s investments in early learning and child care services were slashed under the Harris government. Those cuts were never reversed. Today’s announcement is the first provincial money allocated to child care since those cuts.
Although well below what is needed to build enough affordable, high-quality spaces for the families and children who need them, today’s announcement may provide some relief for child care programs and parents facing the prospect of increasing fees, centre closures and growing waiting lists.
“We will be looking to the province to make further funding commitments in the coming months, and to earmark these dollars for Ontario’s non-profit child care programs,” Ablett continued. “We fully expect that Ontario’s share of the Federal child care funds, announced Monday, will be added to this.”
“The child care community has been waiting for almost four years for provincial child care funding. We hope that today’s announcement is a sign of things to come, and will be watching closely to see just how this plays out on the ground,” commented OCBCC President Shellie Bird. “Child care is a provincial responsibility, and that has to be reflected in its funding of the system.”