Affordable child care in East York inching closer to reality, but not quickly enough, advocates say


Historically, child care has been tough on Torontonian's wallets - but things are changing. (Unsplash) 

As a resident of Toronto, Canada’s most expensive city, it can often be difficult to keep your own head above water.

When you have to keep multiple heads above water, matters can become even more complicated – especially when it comes to child care.

Rachel Vickerson is the Executive Director of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario and said raising young kids in Toronto has always been costly.

“Historically, Toronto has the highest child care fees across the country, upwards of $2,500 for infant spaces,” she said.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Member of Parliament for Beaches-East York, said there is plenty of room for improvement.

“At the moment, it (affordable child care) is not as accessible as it needs to be,” he says.

“Many families have struggled not only finding available spots, but then of course finding spots that are affordable.”

Long childcare waitlists are an issue that have plagued Toronto parents for years.

Waiting on affordability

There is assistance available for financially struggling Ontario families in the form of child-care subsidies.

Under the child-care subsidy system, families can receive up to 100 per cent of their child-care cost coverage depending on financial need.

But, long wait-lists of another nature often keep affordable child care out of reach.

According to Vickerson, there are more than 15,000 children in Toronto who do not have access to a fee subsidy, but are on the waiting list for one.

This presents a problem for lower-income families.

“Those who lack the means to pay close to $2,000 a month don’t have access to child care in the city,” said Erskine-Smith.

He points to Crescent Town as an area of East York where there are not many who can pay this amount to cover child care.

Both Vickerson and Erskine-Smith agree that there is an ongoing reason to be optimistic about the future of affordable child care.

A time of transition

In March, Ontario signed a deal to bring $10 per day child care to the province by 2025, becoming the last province in Canada to do so.

Officially, this program is known as the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child-Care system.

Parents who opted in are set to receive rebates of up to 25 per cent, retroactive to Apr. 1, 2022.

“That means that there are families who are receiving retroactive reductions of a few thousand dollars at 25 per cent,” Vickerson said.

A further fee reduction of 50 per cent, on average, is set to come into effect by the end of the year.

Fees are meant to drop to an average of $10 a day by Sep. 2025.

Ninety-two per cent of licensed child-care operators in Ontario signed on to the program.

Advice for parents

If you are a parent expecting to be seeking child-care soon, Vickerson and Erskine-Smith share the same advice: start now.

“We hear stories where people putting their names on waiting lists when they’re still pregnant,” Vickerson said.

Vickerson’s other piece of advice is to put your name on as many waiting lists as possible.

“Cast a wide net,” she said.

Vickerson and Erskine-Smith also both recommend parents access the City of Toronto’s list of licensed child-care centres.

This resource includes whether fee subsidies are accepted and whether the location has opted-in to CWELCC.

Who to support

Those who wish to see further improvements have plenty of options when it comes to child-care advocates to support.

The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario, which Vickerson is Executive Director of, has consistently campaigned for affordable childcare and livable wages for ECEs.

In addition to her own organization, Vickerson praised other groups as well.

The Toronto Community for Better Child Care is an organization comprising early learning and child-care centres, community groups and individuals from the GTA.

TCBCC offers special learning opportunities and other resources for the community.

The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care is a group that parents and advocates can join as well as childhood educators.

OCBCC campaigns for “low fees or no fees for parents; decent work and pay for educators; and an expansion of public and non-profit services.”

An important legacy

Vickerson said removing barriers to child care is critical to supporting families.

“The ethics and professional standards of early childhood educators really call for an advocacy for children and families and communities,” she said.

“And how we can do that is by having affordable childcare that’s accessible to all.”

Vickerson believes this work is not only important now, but is part of building a better future where child care is not “something stressful.”

“I really do think that it’s an important legacy for the kind of vision of society we want to build,” she said.

About this article

Posted: Jan 5 2023 12:00 pm
Filed under: Affordable East York Features News Politics