Chow urges Ontario government to use federal money for Toronto child care|
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The Ontario government's underfunding is eroding Toronto's child care system
yet it refuses to use available federal funds to help reverse the damage,
Councillor Olivia Chow, Chair of Toronto's Community Services Committee told
the Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs pre-budget
consultation session today.
"Toronto's child care system is at risk," said Chow. "We are experiencing
severe financial stress and facing rapid service decline. There is an urgent
need for new provincial funding to stabilize and preserve our program, prevent
further service erosion and enable us to sustain the program."
Chow urged Ontario to use funds from the Government of Canada's Early Childhood
Development Initiative (ECDI) to support child care, as every other province
has done. Figures cited by the Minister of Community, Family and Children's
Services indicate that $113 million is unallocated and available after the
first two years of ECDI operation.
Since 1999, Ontario has cut its annual base funding for Toronto's child care
program by $11.8 million. As a result, Toronto is at its lowest level of
subsidized spaces since 1992. No new spaces have been created since 1997 and
1,616 subsidized spaces have been cut in 2002. Another 700 subsidized spaces
may be cut this year while the waiting list for space grows by 500 a month.
"Ontario has refused without explanation to use any of its share to stabilize,
improve and expand licensed child care anywhere in Ontario," said Chow. "We are
asking the province to reverse this 'anything but child care' policy that
guides the allocation of ECDI funds."
Chow urged Ontario to commit immediately $18.6 million of the funds left over
from the federal government's Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) to
ensure that child care continues to be available to Toronto families. Ontario
is the only province not using the funds to strengthen child care programs. The
funds will help to stabilize current service levels and restore lost spaces.
Chow also urged Ontario's participation in a national child care program.
"The ability of parents to work on a sustained basis as well as the lives of
young children will be adversely affected if we do not act together. Reduced
funding lessens the good outcomes for children, families and the community.
Without increased provincial government support, the system will be eroded
beyond repair and there will not be there to serve those who need it most,"
Toronto's position paper on provincial government funding of child care,
Preserving Child Care in Toronto: The Case for New Ontario Government Funding,
is available at www.torontochildren.com