Future of child-care funding uncertain

A child-care advocate says a proposed cut to Ontario’s childcare funding could cripple child care centres in Toronto.

In 2003, Dalton McGuinty pledged $300 million to child care. Three years later, the premier accepted a one-time payment from the federal government. Since then, the Ontario government has allotted $63.5 million to child-care funding every year.

Critics say the money Ontario received from the federal government will run out this June and that this means cuts to child-care subsidies. Andrea Calver, spokesperson for Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, says these cuts will hurt parents.

“The ripple effect of these cuts will lead to a catastrophic collapse for our fragile child care system and impact families, child care centres and staff and communities,” Calver said.

Calver said that over 7,000 child-care spaces could vanish along with 1,800 child-care jobs. She added that this will result in additional burden to an economy still emerging from a recession.

”While the province is facing a $24.7 billion deficit, cuts to the child-care sector will significantly affect our economy,” Calver said. “The Centre for Spatial Economics found that there would be a drop of $148.3 million in Ontario’s GDP through job losses and increased demand for welfare.”

Calver said that low-income neighbourhoods will suffer as a result of subsidy cuts.

Rosemary White, executive director of Bond Street Nursery School, agrees. Her school has served children and families living in the St. Jamestown and Regent Park area since 1937. White says that many of the parents who enroll their children at Bond Street Nursery School live below the low-income cutoff. She said cuts to subsidies will exclude the children in low-income families from child-care and put some facilities out of business.

“When our older children leave in August, we will not be able to admit new children because they will not be able to get a subsidy,” White said. “Of course we cannot exist with over half our children gone. We may very well have to close our doors.”

Torbinta Albert, a parent to three children, has waited since April 2009 for a subsidy so her youngest child can attend Bond Street Nursery School. She cannot afford child care otherwise. An immigrant from Sri Lanka, Albert would like to learn English to improve her life. Without the subsidy, she says would have to stay home during the day to take care of her three-year-old son.

“I would like to go to ESL classes, but I cannot go,” Albert said.

White said that the funding shortfall means the system will lose 5,000 spaces.

“The parents impacted are the ones who cannot get their children into the school. They are disappointed and some are confused as they do not understand how there can be funding one minute and then it is gone the next,” White said.

Laurel Broten, minister of Child and Youth Services, said the federal government needs to act quickly to resolve this situation.

“Ontario parents will see an erosion of child-care services if the federal government doesn’t step up and get back in the child care business,” Broten said.

But Sylivia Jones, Conservative critic of Child and Youth Services and MPP for Dufferin-Caledon, disagreed. She thinks that the Ontario should not seek help from the federal government.

“The province should concentrate on managing their provincial program,” Jones said.

Jones also thinks that the introduction of full-day kindergarten may be illtiming by the Liberal government.

“The McGuinty Liberals have chosen to unveil their costly all-day kindergarten program, while organizations with programs already in place are looking for support,” Jones said.