The daycare deal is done -- the question now is how to make it happen.
Last but not least, Ontario has inked a deal with the federal government to cut the cost of childcare in the province to an average of $10/day by September 2025, but some experts suggest the deal may already have a people problem.
"In order to grow the system and create new spaces we obviously need to hire a lot of Early Childhood Educators, but right now there's a shortage of educators in our sector," said Lori Prospero, CEO, RisingOaks Early Learning Ontario.
The daycare deal includes the creation of 86,000 new "high quality" childcare spaces, but Prospero says that will also require some 18,000 new Early Childhood Educators.
"Right now we're actually experiencing a staffing shortage across the province and what we're finding is that educators are leaving the field because they feel they're not being compensated fairly or they can get higher compensation, whether that's through direct salary or other types of compensation, in other types of positions," Prospero said, adding licensed daycares also have to compete with school boards who hire Early Childhood Educators for their full-day kindergarten programs."
Prospero says the only way to change that and to attract and retain new educators is to offer professional wages and decent working conditions. She says a proposed new minimum-wage floor for ECEs of $18/hr likely isn't enough.
In a statement released immediately following news of the deal on Monday, the College of Early Childhood Educators says it is "encouraged by the government's commitment to recruiting and retaining qualified professionals in the workforce and we remain eager and ready to work with government and stakeholders to develop and implement solutions."
Prospero suggests that should include the province launching an advisory table which would include daycare operators, "so that childcare operators can have a voice at the table and can help to inform some of the operational challenges that are going to exist as we start to expand the system."
"If the system is expanded too quickly, then we risk not having enough educators or impacting the quality of the program," she said. "And we all want to make sure that we can provide the best quality of program for the children that we serve."