Ontario’s Child Care Deal: What we know, what we don’t and what worries us

YWCA Cambridge joins advocates across the province in celebrating Ontario signing on to the federal child care plan. For over 50 years, since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women’s 1970 report identified a universal child care program as a key pillar to promoting gender equity, advocates have fought for it to become a reality. That it is finally here is a testament to the tireless advocates who came before us and all those today who refused to give up the fight for this great step toward gender equity.

As our colleagues at YWCA Toronto rightly pointed out, “[c]hild care is not a luxury; it is a necessity.” A universal, affordable and accessible child care system means that, at long last, women will not be forced to choose between pursuing a career and having a family.

While we celebrate this win, many questions and concerns remain.

What we know about the child care deal:

  • Applies only to Ontario families with children aged 5 and under in licensed child care centres;
  • Includes an $18/hr base wage (with a $1/hr raise per year up to $22) for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) and $20 base wage for supervisors to a maximum of $25. These rates apply only to RECEs;
  • Parent fees will be reduced by 25% retroactive to April 1, 2022, and by another 25% by December 2022;
  • The province aims to reach an average of $10/day child care by September 2025; and,
  • The province will add 86,000 child care spaces by 2026.

What worries us

  • The plan for reducing fees excludes school age/before and after care (6-12 year olds), which makes up approximately 25% of all child care spaces in Ontario;
  • An $18/hour wage floor will not recruit and retain child care workers and as such will do nothing to address the worsening staffing crisis happening across the childcare sector;
  • According to a recent technical briefing by the Ministry of Education, only 53% of child care workers in Ontario working with children 0-5 are RECEs – we need wages that benefit all child care educators and support staff, not just some of them;
  • Child care workers are leaving the field in droves. Graduates from ECE programs who do enter the field are staying on average a mere 3 years;
  • Without addressing the workforce crisis, we are unsure how the province will staff the planned 86,000 new spaces.

What we want to know:

Currently, we have two burning questions:

  • What is Ontario’s workforce strategy to address the worsening staffing crisis?
  • Will there be funding for operating costs?

The answers to these questions will have massive impacts on the entire child care sector and the success of the child care plan.

Monday’s announcement was a historic one. However, since the federal government announced its plan to roll out bilateral childcare agreements with each province and territory, advocates have been loud and clear –a $25/hr base wage and 10 paid sick days are required to repair and build up the child care sector in Ontario.

As one of the more than 5,500 licensed nonprofit childcare operators in Ontario, YWCA Cambridge is pleased to see that our Premier has signed on to the federal child care deal. We absolutely believe that parent fees should be a maximum of $10/day and on a sliding scale for lower-income families. However, a plan focused only on parent fees and expanding spaces with no look to addressing the staffing crisis and supporting the operators will be difficult to successfully roll out.

Indeed, Premier Ford himself said at a press conference on Monday, “to be frank, [early childhood educators] deserve more money.”

We agree.

 

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