Ontario budget fails to address child care needs of Toronto working families |
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The Ontario government has again failed children and working families by not
increasing funding for Toronto's child care system, Councillor Olivia Chow,
Chair of Toronto's Community Services Committee, said following Thursday's
tabling of the 2003-04 provincial budget by Finance Minister Janet Ecker.
"We are very concerned that Ontario has refused our request to use funds from
the federal Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) to support child care
in Toronto," said Chow. "In addition, we do not have Ontario's commitment to
use recently announced federal child care funding for high-quality, licensed
child care. The result of the province's policy of under-funding is the further
erosion of our child care system."
Chow has urged the Ontario government to end its under-funding by using
available ECDI and child care funds to stabilize, preserve and sustain the
program and prevent further service erosion. Chow had made the request to the
Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs pre-budget
consultation session in January. In March, she joined 25 community signatories
taking the same message to Premier Eves as an open letter that was carried in
newspapers throughout Toronto. By the beginning of April, 50,000 families
across the city will receive brochures asking them to contact the premier and
request that the province restore and preserve child care.
In April, Ontario will receive just over $200 million in combined federal ECDI
and child care funding. Chow has proposed that Ontario commit immediately $18.6
million to ensure that child care continues to be available to Toronto
families. Ontario is the only province not using ECDI funds to strengthen child
"Ontario's reluctance to sign on to the federal child care plan and the
province's lack of commitment to high-quality child care that enriches early
childhood development and learning and enables parents to work or to receive
education and training remain problematic," said Chow. "The province's failure
to increase its support for Toronto's child care system puts our efforts at
risk and makes the prospect of closing spaces real."
Chow has requested a meeting with provincial Minister of Community, Family and
Children's Services Brenda Elliott but has been unsuccessful in obtaining one.
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 were cut in 2002. Another 700 subsidized spaces may be
cut this year.
|Councillor Olivia Chow|