City daycare funding on chopping block in budget debate

Christina Gilligan says she’s having a hard time finding affordable childcare space for her little girl in Toronto.

Her toddler, she says, is on a long waiting list to get into Bellevue Child Care Centre, one of the centres slated to close if the city’s proposed operating budget passes.

On Wednesday afternoon at city hall, Gilligan pleaded with councillors to find alternatives to cutting funding for childcare.

Childcare is a provincial responsibility, but we have a responsibility for our families and our neighbourhoods.

—Coun. Joe Mihevc

“I’m not here to attack,” she said. “I’m here to ask for you to work with community groups, to work with mothers to get the funding we need to keep these centres open.”

According to Elaine Baxter-Trahair, general manager of Toronto’s children’s services, the city is asking for $274 million in funding from the provincial government to maintain its services.

Last week, Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc pushed a motion that would temporarily stop any closures until the 2012 provincial budget is released in March. He said the motion would allow councillors and parents to discuss funding alternatives.

“Yes, childcare is a provincial responsibility, but we have a responsibility for our families and our neighbourhoods,” Mihevc said. “We shouldn’t act so precipitously. We should try and hold this thing together and not close anything until we find out what the province is doing.”

Ward 12 councillor Frank Di Giorgio was not convinced. He said the provincial government has been unreliable when it comes to funding.

“It may be wiser to do [cut city funding] now so we send a message to the province that we’re hurting,” Di Giorgio said. “You want the province to come up with more money. We’ve been doing that with the TTC and the point is they haven’t come up with the money.”

Other city-funded childcare centres in danger of closing include St. Marks Day Care Centre and Greenholme – Albian Child Care Centre.