Toronto

Ontario slashing more than $80M from municipal child care funding, group warns

An Ontario child-care advocacy organization says municipalities are getting at least $80 million less from the province in child care funding this year — a figure that could rise even higher.

PC government says municipalities can lower administrative costs to make up shortfall

Toronto has warned that funding cuts could result in the loss of more than 6,000 child care subsidies. (Rawpixel/Shutterstock)

Ontario municipalities will get at least $80 million less from the province in child care funding this year, according to an advocacy organization.

Carolyn Ferns, with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, said once municipalities calculate additional changes to cost-sharing agreements, that figure could rise dramatically.

"We're really thinking that once you see those changes, once all the municipalities really crunch the numbers on that, it's going to be much bigger," she said Tuesday. "It could be twice as much."

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said $80 million does not line up with her numbers, but neither she nor the ministry provided a figure for the total impact to municipalities.

Thompson said municipalities can find some ways to find money.

"We need to be taking a look at realizing efficiencies because municipalities across Ontario have left child care spaces on the table and that's not acceptable," said Thompson, suggesting spaces at city-run child care centres go unfilled.

"We're encouraging the administrations at municipalities or within municipalities around the province to take a look at how they're administering the programs and for goodness sakes do not leave any child care space on the table."

The City of Toronto has done the calculations Ferns referenced, and says it is getting $85 million less in funding from the province this year — $29 million from a reduction in funding allocations and the rest due to the cost-sharing changes.

Those changes include asking municipalities to contribute 20 per cent of funding meant to help create more licensed, not-for-profit child care spaces, when the province had previously contributed all of the money.

Province disputes city's figures

The government disputes Toronto's numbers, saying the city will get $27 million less, including all funding changes.

Ferns's $80 million figure includes a fund that helped child care centres cover increasing labour costs due to a minimum wage increase to $14 an hour — money that the government says was intended last year as one-time funding, but the previous Liberal education minister said that's false.

"It was permanent funding, because the minimum wage increase is obviously not going to end," said Mitzie Hunter. "Those costs have increased and the fee stabilization support was meant to help child care centres not pass on increased costs to parents."

Vanessa Kelly, a mom and former licensed home day care provider in Thompson's riding of Huron-Bruce, called on the minister to reverse the changes.

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