Ontario pledges to create 45,000 child-care spaces

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Ontario has announced a $1.6-billion plan to create 45,000 licensed child-care spaces.

Those new spaces are part of a pledge aimed at giving 100,000 more children aged four and under access to licensed child care over five years.

“Today we’re taking the next big leap to transform the way we deliver child care in the province,” Early Years and Child Care Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris told reporters inside a Toronto daycare.

She said the plan will set Ontario “on a path towards a universally accessible child-care system.”

The new framework aims to increase access to high-quality child care by funding those new spaces, providing more funding for licensed home child care and offering more fee subsidies for families who need them.

The province said it will also consider broadening and tweaking those subsidies, possibly expanding their availability to both middle-income and low-income families as part of a larger examination of affordability issues. Ontario will also establish a provincial definition to determine what constitutes “quality” child care.

Indira Naidoo-Harris

Indira Naidoo-Harris, minister responsible for early years and child care, announced the funding at a Toronto daycare Tuesday. (CBC)

Even with some of those details not yet determined, Naidoo-Harris said it won’t be long before families notice an improvement in accessibility and affordability.

“Almost immediately, in the next year, you’re going to see a major shift in the sector,” she said, adding that the investment represents Ontario’s largest ever capital investment in child care.

Toronto parents struggling

The new plan is being welcomed by parents in Toronto, who contend with what they call “astronomical” daycare fees.

According to research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, several Greater Toronto Area cities have the highest child-care fees in the country, with Toronto topping the list with a median fee of $1,649 a month for infants.

“Having one child in daycare is almost a mortgage payment,” said Mellisa Jewell, who was spending the day with her son Oliver at Oaks ‘n Acorns, a Toronto activity studio where parents look after their children.

Oliver spends three days a week in daycare at a cost of $1,300 per month. Jewell said finding the spot was difficult, and even the part-time help is nearly unaffordable.

“It’s really difficult in this city,” she said.

Stuart Sackler

Stuart Sackler quit his job as a software developer to care for his daughter, after finding daycare costs too high. (CBC)

For Stuart Sackler, the $2,400 per month daycare fees he found for his 17-month-old daughter were so high that he decided to quit his job as a software developer to become a stay-at-home dad.

He called it a blessing, since he now gets to spend more time with his child, but added, “I’d love if child care were more affordable so we could have two incomes at the same time.”

While he was happy to hear about the province’s funding commitment, Sackler wants Ontario to create dedicated affordable spaces for children under 2½, for whom care is often prohibitively expensive and difficult to find, he said.

Grandmother Laura Sirdavan took 10 years off work to care for her three children, who are now in their 30s. She’s now helping her daughter look after her 1½-year-old son.

While child care was expensive when she was raising her family, she said, her adult children now contend with more difficult circumstances.

“Today, it’s much more expensive,” she said. “The cost of housing, the cost of rent … I think it’s more difficult today.”

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Ontario pledges to create 45,000 child-care spaces

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