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Ontario's $63.5 million child care question

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Crowe, Cathy
Publication Date: 
16 Mar 2010

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The Harper government's first-ever budget, tabled five years ago,
unleashed a ticking time bomb that is set to explode on Ontario's
childcare sector this year.

That budget cancelled the beginnings of a national childcare
program, leaving Ontario $63.5 million short of keeping its subsidized
spaces open to low-income working parents this year.

The feds kissed off the childcare program with a one-time
funding envelope, which Ontario used to sustain subsidies. As the
envelope ran out last year, the province even stepped in with $20
million to fill the gap. But Ontario was clear that it held the hope
that the federal government would do the right thing and reinstate the

However, last week's federal budget made it crystal clear that
the Harper government has no intention of funding subsidized childcare
in Ontario, or anywhere for that matter. That duty now lies at the feet
of our provincial government.

Some doubts remain as to whether the McGuinty government is
prepared to face facts and turn its temporary fix into a long-term

It continues to portray the problem as a federal one and has, so
far, refused to commit to maintain its $63.5 million funding for

If it fails to live up to its duty, Ontario's childcare sector
could very well collapse: at least 7,600 childcare spaces throughout
the province would vanish overnight, leaving parents with no options.


With early learning as the centerpiece of McGuinty's second term in office, none of this makes sense.

Walking away from the childcare sector kills thousands of child
care jobs and creates a ripple effect of unemployment among parents at
a time when the province is still in need of fiscal stimulus.


That creates unnecessary pressure on family budgets, especially
those with lower incomes who will find themselves without a childcare
subsidy. In turn, this will put pressure on federal, provincial and
municipal budgets, since unemployed parents will be forced to turn to
Employment Insurance and welfare to get by.

A recent study by the Centre for Spatial Economics estimates the
loss of $63.5 million in childcare funding could result in a total loss
of GDP of $148.3 million.
In the City of Toronto alone, the loss of family childcare subsidies
would force many parents into unemployment, resulting in the potential
loss of almost 3,500 jobs and an increase in government spending on
social assistance.
The consequences of pulling funding are clearly catastrophic.

The reverse is true: by committing to childcare, the McGuinty
government can save jobs, contribute to the province's economic
recovery and build on its promise to make Ontario a leader in early

The economic case for the $63.5 million solution to Ontario's
childcare crisis is so strong, early learning advocates are scratching
their heads over the way the situation has turned out.


By securing childcare spaces, it enables parents to stay in the
paid workforce, contributing to the local economy and to government
revenues needed to slay the recession-made deficit.

It gives children the best start in life, equipping them with
the supports they need to become lifelong learners and, ultimately, the
next generation of thought leaders in an increasingly competitive
global economy.

And because child care workers tend to have modest incomes,
they're more likely to spend their wages in their own community,
directly boosting their local economy at a time when we need it most.

How does a $63.5 million investment in children, in families, in
jobs, and in Ontario's economic health compare to other spending

In last year's budget alone, the McGuinty government dropped
$4.5 billion in corporate tax cuts over the next three years at a time
when Ontario can ill afford such giveaways. Investing in early learning
for our children yields far greater benefits.

The $63.5 million childcare question is a problem looking for an
answer. There is still time for the McGuinty government to come to its
senses. If it does, it could prove to be the highlight of this year's
provincial budget.
If it fails to live up to its duty, Ontario's childcare sector could
very well collapse: at least 7,600 childcare spaces throughout the
province would vanish overnight, leaving parents with no options.

- reprinted from Rabble