Toronto parents fear daycare fee hike

Only the wealthy will be able to afford daycare if Toronto city council follows through on a proposal to cut funds to school-based child-care centres, concerned parents say.

Only the wealthy will be able to afford daycare if Toronto city council follows through on a proposal to cut funds to school-based child-care centres, concerned parents say.

"It's your lower- to middle-income parents…so you'll have a situation where only those that are very wealthy will be able to afford a space in a daycare centre," said Virginia Thomson. She is worried because her daughter Jessica, who is eight-months pregnant, needs daycare as a graduate student at Ryerson University.

"She has the right to continue to study and her husband to work," Thomson said.

Parents already pay as much as $1,000 a month for daycare. If councillors approve cuts to the city's school-based daycare centres, Thomson's daughter would pay an additional $500 a year.

The proposed cuts would affect the city's 13-year agreement with school boards, which sees the city pay about $5 million toward costs such as heat and hydro. About 400 child-care centres would see their funding diminish, shifting the burden to parents.

"If we tear up this agreement, it's quickly seen by our councillors that the costs skyrocket for child-care programs," said Jane Mercer of the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care.

The cuts would save the city about $3 million.

'We can't afford this'

The same issue came up in 2010 when councillors were debating cuts to the city's budget. Parents and child-care advocates were outraged by the proposal.

"Each time that it's come up parents have spoken out," Thomson said. "They said, 'We can't afford this.' "

The city — which is facing members of the public during budget deputations Wednesday and Thursday — has recently said it's looking to the provincial government to solve its daycare woes.

A November report prepared for the Toronto community development and recreation committee said the repercussions of the province's plan to shift all four- and five-year-olds to full-day kindergartens by 2014 could mean a loss of subsidies and child-care spaces and increased costs to parents.

The report said more than half the child-care centres — many in Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods — could shut their doors unless more money is provided by Queen's Park.

The daycares need the money, the report said, to renovate their spaces to look after younger children.

"Without the province properly coming to the table there will not be a child-care program in this city," Coun. Giorgio Mamolitti, the committee chair, said at the time.