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Ontario government's child-care cuts will harm municipalities, advocates say

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Author: 
Rushowy, Kristin & Monsebraaten, Laurie
Publication Date: 
7 May 2019
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Vanessa Kelly, a mother of three, says there is a child-care “crisis” in her community.

The Goderich resident, who used to run a licensed child-care in her home, lives in Education Minister Lisa Thompson’s riding of Huron-Bruce and came to the legislature Tuesday with a number of parents to voice their opposition to child-care funding cuts.

“Child care needs more investment from the provincial government, not less,” Kelly said.

Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care said municipalities will see a drop in provincial funding well over the $80 million calculated so far, given other changes still need to be factored in.

Thompson has said the government is making a “historic” $2-billion investment in child care, including a tax rebate for families.

However, she said, “we need to be taking a look at realizing efficiencies because municipalities across Ontario have left child-care spaces on the table, and that’s not acceptable.”

She cited Toronto, where she said 16 percent of spaces went vacant last year.

The government, she added, is “encouraging municipalities around the province to take a look at how they are administering programs ... families need accessibility, flexibility and affordability, and we want to work with our municipalities” to achieve that.

Thompson also questioned the $80-million funding loss province-wide, though did not provide the government’s figures.

“It doesn’t line up with our numbers,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ontario families “are already paying some of the highest child-care costs in the country” and that government cutbacks will mean fewer subsidies for families who need help, fewer spaces and more private-sector centres.

Horwath said the only reason spaces are left empty “is because they are too expensive and there are not enough subsidies to go around.”

In the legislature, Thompson said the government’s tax-rebate plan for child-care will put more money back in parents’ pockets.

“We are actually making sure that for the first time, people have a right to choose between in-centre care, home care or summer camps. The fact of the matter is that all of those expenses will be covered off: 75 percent of child care expenses will be covered off by our CARE tax credit.

“The fact of the matter is that we are getting it right.”

The province has also changed the cost-sharing arrangement for child care — it used to be 100 percent for new spaces — and municipalities are still trying to figure out the impact.

In Toronto, for example, the city manager estimates a loss of almost $45 million this year, a cut that could wipe out 6,166 subsidies.

The province is also chopping funding to administer the licenced child-care system, from 10 percent to 5. And while the Ford government is keeping the $2-an-hour wage enhancement grant, provincial-cost-sharing to administer the grant is being cut from 100 to 50 percent.

A $50-million fund that helped keep fees stable was also dropped.

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Entered Date: 
8 May 2019
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