Who cares about child care? Two contrasting budget announcements show the priorities of the Ontario and federal government

Last week Tuesday, the Ontario budget was delivered in the Ontario legislature. The 2024 Ontario Budget ignored calls from the child care sector, advocates, experts, parents and educators for greater provincial operating funding to child care, funding to increase wages and provincial capital funding to expand spaces. While the Ontario Budget maintained plans to include child care spaces in new elementary school buildings, the Budget contained no new spending announcements for child care.

Provincial allocations to child care remain lower today than they were when the Ford government was first elected in 2018. If 2018 provincial child care allocations had simply kept pace with inflation there would be $500 Million more in the child care budget today.

It is this provincial underfunding that is driving the precarity of the child care sector in Ontario.

By contrast, last Thursday, the federal government held a pre-budget announcement of a new $1 Billion low-cost loan program, $60 Million in grants to support new public and non-profit child care programs, and a student loan forgiveness for graduates of ECE programs who choose to work in smaller, rural, Northern and remote communities.

The OCBCC’s federal partner, Child Care Now, applauded the federal budget action to support child care expansion, while still calling for “stronger funding commitment for a comprehensive federal/provincial/territorial recruitment and retention strategy that addresses fair wages, pensions and working conditions”.

These contrasting budget announcements make clear the different approaches and priorities of the federal and provincial government on child care.

The OCBCC will continue to advocate for all levels of government - federal, provincial and municipal - to collaborate together to ensure that the child care sector gets what they need to survive, thrive and expand. It’s what Ontario’s children, families and educators deserve.