Ontario's child care funding announcement a small first step|
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The Ontario government has taken a small first step towards showing its support
for Toronto's child care system, Councillor Olivia Chow, Toronto's Children's
Advocate, said today following the announcement by Children's Services Minister
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni to flow federal funding from the Multilateral Agreement
on Early Learning and Child Care to the City's child care programs.
"I am glad to see there is finally a crack in the dam which has held up
provincial funding for child care. Now we are hoping the entire dam comes down,
and the Province starts flowing much needed investment for the important care
of our children," Councillor Chow said.
"The funding announced today will be put to very good use by making health and
safety improvements in child care," said Chow. "However, this funding does
nothing to address the real pressures that Toronto's child care system faces
due to chronic underfunding by the previous provincial government. The prospect
of up to 550 children not being able to access service this year is very real."
The most serious pressures that Toronto's child care system faces are cuts to
the number of child care spaces and insufficient funding to pay child care
operators the full per diem cost of providing subsidized child care spaces.
Since 1999, the Ontario government has cut its child care base funding by $11.8
million annually. As a result, Toronto is at its lowest level of subsidized
spaces since 1992. No new spaces have been created since 1997, 1,616 subsidized
spaces were cut in 2002 and the City saved access to subsidies for
approximately 500 children in 2003 by providing 100 per cent funding instead of
the usual 80/20 provincial cost-sharing. Toronto's children are currently
poised to lose additional services without increased provincial support, while
demand for services continues to increase.
Chow urges the Ontario government to end underfunding of Toronto's child care
system by using $21.9 million available through the Early Childhood Development
Initiative (ECDI) and federal/provincial child care framework agreement to stop
further loss of child care spaces, restore spaces previously lost, cover child
care centres' actual costs of providing service (including inflation and pay
equity) and make health and safety improvements in child care programs.
"For the last year, Toronto has carried out a public campaign to convince
Ontario to spend some of the significant amounts of ECDI funding (an estimated
$192 million in 2003-04) on child care. The Ontario government's own Best Start
Plan for children identifies the lack of ECDI spending on child care as one of
the weaknesses of the previous government's direction regarding early childhood
education and care," said Chow. "We trust that this government will come
through with adequate support to back up its vision of putting the best
interests of children at the forefront of its programs."
The ECDI, announced by the federal government in September 2000, committed $500
million annually to enhance early years programs and services in Canada
including child care. Building on this initiative, in March 2003 the federal
government announced that it would make available an additional $25 million
last year and $75 million in 2004 to improve access to early learning and child
care programs through an agreement reached by federal, provincial and
territorial ministers on a framework for co-operation in this area. To date,
Ontario has not spent any ECDI money on child care, unlike most provinces and
Councillor Olivia Chow, Children's Advocate, 416-567-4036 (cell);