Posted January 23, 2018
As Ottawa and Queen’s Park begin to pump billions of dollars into child care, Toronto is not living up to its pledge last fall to contribute 20 per cent, parents and advocates say.
“This is a false budget. It is a shell game,” said East York-area Councillor Janet Davis, a longtime child care advocate.
“This is a cynical set-up for a good-news announcement further along in the budget process — and a way to cover up the city’s failure to keep its commitment to Toronto parents,” she told reporters at city hall Monday, on the eve of this week’s budget committee deliberations.
The city’s $551 million child-care budget for 2018 represents a net decrease of 0.1 per cent over last year, according to budget documents.
And it fails to account for $57 million in new federal and provincial child-care funds announced last year to pay for 825 new fee subsidies and other measures to make child care more affordable, Davis said.
Both Mayor John Tory and city budget chief Gary Crawford have signaled more money is coming for child care. The question for parents and advocates Monday was: whose money?
“Other governments have stepped up to the plate after decades of pressure on behalf of all of us, including city council. It’s time for Toronto to keep its promise,” said Laurel Rothman of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.
Crawford was not immediately available for comment.
New parent Carolyn Ferns said her son Rowan, 8 months, is on wait lists for 12 child-care centres near her Kensington Market-area home.
“Even though our family can afford to pay full fees, we still can’t find a space,” said Ferns, who returns to her job with the child-care coalition in May.
Entrepreneur Pooria Just, whose son Dustin, 4, was diagnosed with moderate autism a year ago, says finding affordable child care after three years has helped the boy develop social and communication skills.
“Lack of affordable high quality child care had a huge impact on our family, which we are still dealing with, including divorce, (financial) stress and lots of instability,” said Just, a member of ACORN Toronto, an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income residents.
“I now see what was missing for the first four years of (my son’s) life was a child-care system to help my family,” he told reporters.
ACORN is calling for a universal child-care system with $10-a-day fees for all families, a goal city council also endorsed last fall.
“Toronto is the epicentre of the child-care crisis in Canada. Fees have already increased in 2018 and show no sign of decreasing. We desperately need the city to keep its 20-per-cent commitment,” he said. “It is hypocritical for city councillors to pretend to care about low- to moderate-income parents when they expect other levels of government to provide the funding.”
There are about 72,000 licensed child-care spaces in Toronto for children up to age 12 and fee subsidies for almost 29,000 children. But there are only enough spots to serve 20 per cent of the city’s young children and fee subsidies to support just 30 per cent of Toronto’s low-income kids.
About 50,000 parents are on wait lists for licensed child care in Toronto, according to a survey by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. More than 12,000 children are waiting for fee subsidies, city staff say.
Meanwhile, the median cost of licensed child care for Toronto preschoolers is more than $1,200 a month, the highest in the country.
Article by Laurie Monsebraaten for the Toronto Star