$60 payout 'putting money back in parents' pockets', education minister says

The minister of education is offering parents money for childcare costs incurred during rotating teachers' strikes.

Costs of finding daycare on short notice need to be addressed, minister says

Ontario's minister of education, Stephen Lecce, says the average salary for a teacher in Ontario is $92,000, one of the highest in the world. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

The minister of education is offering parents money for childcare costs incurred during rotating teachers' strikes.

Stephen Lecce says parents can apply for amounts from $25 to $60 per day for children under twelve.

Lecce says if all unions were to walk out, subsidies for childcare would amount to $48 million a day.    

"Just for clarity, every day that all unions withdraw services, that full withdraw saves the government $60 million dollars in salaries," Lecce said. "So the concept here is we know that's not our money, it's our tax dollars, we're using it. It's the savings from their withdrawal of service."

Parents of pre-schoolers at school-based child-care centres affected by the strikes will get the most money. Those with children in grades 1 through 7 will get less and parents of high school students will get nothing.

Lecce said the government's motivation for the payout was to put money "back in the pockets of working people in Ontario."

"At the end of the day the greatest constituency that bears the costs of this are parents and middle and low-income families who have to find childcare on short order," he said. 

As for criticisms that the payout was a bribe to parents, Lecce said he wasn't surprised it was being spun by teachers' unions as such.

"I think union leaders, respectfully, must accept the premise that there's a cost when a child is staying home," he said. "We have examples, real human examples, of individuals and low-income families and single parent families where they have to take vacation days."

"Those will eventually add up," Lecce said. "So it is absolutely in the interests of the taxpayer to return that money to them to make their life a little bit better and a little less difficult during this time of turmoil."

"And it underscores our commitment to standing with families against this escalation."

Unions have countered that the rotating strikes are about class sizes. But Lecce said negotiations revolve around "a variety of issues on the table," including teachers' salaries, which he said average $92,000.

"It would be wrong and inaccurate to suggest as has been the case by my colleagues in the unions that the compensation isn't a fundamental issue," Lecce said. "It absolutely is."

"So much so that [unions] have decided in the latter months of December to take the government to court over our compensation proposal of 1 per cent, which represents a $750 million increase."

"I valued teachers' work. I want to retain talent, to inspire our kids learning. But at the end of day you know, we pay them well."