Doug Ford Government Downgrades Government Daycare Allowance

Doug Ford’s government has downgraded an allowance that would help municipalities finance the growth of daycares on their territory, Radio-Canada learned. Instead of getting $48 million, the cities will divide $25 million this year. This measure raises concern in the child services community, according to several stakeholders.

Today’s Family Center in Hamilton is buzzing with toddlers who play and move. Marni Flaherty, the president and CEO of the organization, which has six daycares and an agency that oversees about 100 family-based daycares, said she was working with the Hamilton municipality to expand. But his plans are now on the back burner.

We can not do it without the help of the City. Child care is expensive for families.

Marni Flaherty, Chief Executive Officer, Today’s Family

According to documents obtained by Radio-Canada, the former Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne promised to give municipalities $48 million to develop the day care network. The cities then had to distribute the money according to the local needs and peculiarities.

The new Progressive Conservative government sent a new memo in August. It shows that the planned allocation for child care expansion is revised to $ 25,330,783, which is $ 22.6 million less than anticipated.

For Hamilton, that means an allocation of $ 1.1 million rather than $ 2.1 million. The difference is just over one percent of the City’s total budget for early childhood services. But for Grace Mater, Director of Children’s Services, the impact is not insignificant.

It’s a small cut, but since this money is dedicated to growing services to groups of 0 to 4 years old, that can slow down the progress we were making.

Grace Mater, Director of Children’s Services, City of Hamilton

By email, the Ministry of Education explains that the agreements were not “finalized” before the launch of the election campaign on May 9. Instead of redistributing the $48 million announced before the election, the government instead allocated the amount for the remaining four months of 2018.

A ministry spokeswoman says the reduction will not impact services.

The department did not say what will happen with the $22.6 million that will not be distributed this year.

The Ontario Coalition for Better Early Childhood Education says this is a measure that sows uncertainty for the people involved in the community.

We are concerned that this is a first clue to the new agenda for child care (in Ontario).

Carolyn Ferns, Coordinator, Ontario Coalition for Better Early Childhood Education Services
Education Minister Lisa Thompson was not available for an interview. In the election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives promised up to 26 per cent of child care costs .

A gain for commercial daycares

The most recent memo also states that Doug Ford’s government is abolishing a measure that would curb the expansion of commercial child care to non-profit institutions.

Since 2016, Ontario municipalities have been required to distribute provincial money within a maximum threshold for for-profit child care. For example, if 20% of a city’s daycares were for-profit, a maximum of 20% of funding could be given to this type of business. The idea, according to experts, was to encourage the creation of new child care spaces in the non-profit sector without having a detrimental impact on existing commercial centers.

We are worried about big day care companies. They must generate a profit for shareholders and we know that these large corporations tend to cut corners in terms of quality (care).

Carolyn Ferns, Coordinator, Ontario Coalition for Better Early Childhood Education Services

By email, the Ministry of Education responded that this measure has limited access to grants for families living in communities where access to non-profit child care is limited. “This change gives parents more choice and flexibility.”

Gordon Cleveland, a University of Toronto economist specializing in child care, is also concerned about the provincial government’s change of course. He says that large for-profit companies have had failures in England and Australia in the past.

“Their lobbying becomes very intense. And they tend to push for lower regulation, less government intervention, more funding for them, but less quality supervision. ”

In Hamilton, 18% of daycares are for-profit. Grace Mater does not see this measure in a bad light because some commercial centers on its territory could thus offer new places.

“You have to find a balance,” she says. “Decisions about what to do should be made at the local level.”

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