Scarborough voices won over subsidized childcare cuts

After months of emotional debate, City Hall’s executive committee heard from over 200 deputations during a 20-hour marathon meeting that wrapped up early Tuesday morning.

Mayor Rob Ford and his 13-member committee heard from many Torontonians about proposed service cuts.

One of the major concerns Scarborough residents faced was the threat of subsidized child care spaces being cut. This topic was originally identified in a controversial core service review that left Scarborough residents in limbo.

Scarborough councillors in Mayor Rob Ford’s inner circle were aware that these possible cuts would fall more heavily in their own wards.

Councillor Michael Thompson of Ward 37, Scarborough Centre, said if cuts were to be made he’d be down 90 spaces.

“That’s a significant number so it means 91 families who are looking for daycare spaces would not be able to get them.”

As originally estimated, of the 2,700 subsidy spaces the city could cut next year, 803 would be in Scarborough.

Corrine Pech, an early childhood educator (ECE) of the Scarborough YMCA childcare centre at St. Rose of Lima Catholic school, said if cuts were made then families in Scarborough wouldn’t be able to financially and emotionally afford for this to happen because “eighty to eighty-five per cent depend on subsidy daycare.”

After the meeting concluded on Tuesday, the voices of parents, students, early childhood educators and residents won out.

Instead of phasing out 2,000 city-subsidized childcare spaces, the committee voted to urge senior governments to work with the city to expand childcare.

Pech, who empathizes with low income families, was ecstatic about the news.

“Now that child care funding is no longer being cut and subsidized child care spaces are no longer being cut then low income families will have more of an opportunity to work and find jobs,” she said.

Regardless of what the committee voted, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti of Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest, wasn’t concerned about the possible high loss of subsidized child care spaces in her ward because of the new before-and-after school program.

“The before-and-after school program for four- and five-year-olds is essentially helping this problem because when you open spots, then you’re helping with that problem,” she said.

“The issue is that it’s for the one-, two- and three-year-olds and that’s what we can refocus on.”

Trustee Jerry Chadwick of Ward 22, Scarborough East, is pleased with Mayor Rob Ford and his committee’s decision to expand childcare because he believes in maximizing the concept of community schools and the value of full-day kindergartens for families.

“We must make certain that schools have a year-round child care service,” he said.

The meeting was a show of compromise from the mayor and was brought on by Ford’s allies and by feedback from the public.

Executive member, Michelle Berardinetti said it was the “best work we’ve done so far.”

City Hall has finally moved on to what they now call the “next phase.”

The committee’s decisions are not completely set in stone. A proposal will go before a special meeting of council next Monday.