Toronto

Mayor says city to continue to fund daycare occupancy grants this year

Mayor John Tory says he is backing away from a proposed budget cut that could have resulted in some parents paying hundreds of dollars more for child care this year.

John Tory's announcement at Scarborough daycare comes after letter to Kathleen Wynne

Toronto Mayor John Tory has written a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne asking for more money for child care. (John Rieti)

Mayor John Tory says he is backing away from a proposed budget cut that could have left some parents paying hundreds of dollars more for child care this year.

Tory announced Monday that the city would continue in the upcoming fiscal year to fund occupancy grants to local school boards that house child care spaces, but reiterated his call to the province that it should fund the grants in future.

Several councillors and trustees have repeatedly warned Tory that cutting the $1.13 million paid to schools would result in greater costs for parents, with some facing potential increases of some $350 a year.

"The cost of child care in Toronto is too high and that is not acceptable," Tory said in Scarborough at the John A. Leslie child-care centre. He appeared alongside budget chief Gary Crawford.

"Families struggle to find a space for their kids, and when they do, they often find themselves paying monthly fees that are as high as their mortgage payments. As a city, we can't increase that pressure on young families because it's not fair.

"This responsibility must rest with the province of Ontario," he said.

Tory said the move will benefit more than 8,000 children in Toronto and affect about 350 day cares housed in schools. He said the city will maintain the occupancy grants while "we work hard to see these costs transitioned to where they belong."

Coun. James Pasternak said he will introduce a motion to stop the funding cut.

On Sunday, Tory wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, asking the provincial government for more child care funding, saying "more needs to be done" to help families struggling in Toronto.

The letter comes on the heels of a decision by the province not to allow the city impose road tolls on Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

"After our last meeting, I stated it was not business as usual between our two governments," Tory writes in the letter dated Sunday.

"I firmly believe that when it comes to issues like child care and housing, it can no longer be business as usual because the status quo leaves Toronto taxpayers footing the bills that the province should be paying."
John Tory says in a letter to Kathleen Wynne that, after their last meeting, it's 'not business as usual between our two governments.' (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The city plans to provide 300 additional families with subsidized child care this year.

Tory says in the letter that he wants the province to "act immediately" by providing funding for 4,918 additional subsidies that the city needs to bring its ratio of subsidies to child-care spaces back to the level it was in 2010.

The [child-care spots] are going to make it easier for more women to participate in the economy.- Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

The premier responded in a letter Monday, noting that Ontario had, in 2016, committed to creating 100,000 new child-care spaces around the province. 

Families "need child care that they can afford, and these 100,000 new spots are going to ease the burden," Wynne wrote. "They are going to make it easier for more women to participate in the economy."

She did not, however, respond to any of Tory's requests regarding increased subsidies or ensuring that the province's funding rise in line with inflation. 

Instead, the premier indicated that the minister responsible for Early Years and Child Care, Indira Naidoo-Harris, would respond separately.

Embed child care with early learning: Tory

Tory also wants any new provincial measures that would expand early learning and child care programs to include more funding for additional fee subsidies. He also asks that any funding keep pace with inflation.

The mayor said he wants the province to embed child care as part of early learning and to give children in child care the same opportunities and supports as those given to children in the elementary school system.

He suggests that school boards be directly funded for the full cost of space used by early learning, child care and before- and after-school programs and he urges the premier to give this request "your serious attention."

The mayor writes to the premier: "I know child care and early learning are of keen and heartfelt interest to you as Premier. (Mike Crawley )

The minister responsible for Early Years and Child Care also did not directly answer Tory's request for funding. 

Naidoo-Harris sent a letter to the mayor on Monday evening, which highlighted the $306 million in operating funding to support child care that the province currently provides the city each year. She said that figure represents a jump of more than 57 per cent since 2004.

"The city has the flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet local needs," she wrote.

The minister said she's been working with the federal government and her provincial counterparts on the creation of a pan-Canadian Early Learning and Child Care Framework. 

Once that's created, the minister said it would increase access to child care in this province. 

With files from CBC's John Rieti and Laura Fraser

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