B.C. advances on child care while Ontario takes a step back
“Life changing,” is how one B.C. mom described the news that her family would be part of a new $10-a-day child care program in the province. Others have described the announcement as “groundbreaking” and there are media reports that parents have broken down in tears of joy at hearing the news.
For Ontario families and educators, this amazing news out of B.C. is bittersweet. While some B.C. families will begin paying a maximum of $200 a month for child care, Ontario families often pay 10 times that much. It’s all the more frustrating because Ontario families struggling with their child care bills or languishing on a wait-list had finally seen their own hope on the horizon.
Six months ago, Ontario was poised to lead the country on child care. In 2016 the Ontario government began its plan to help create 100,000 new child care spaces. Then in early 2018, after extensive consultations and an economic analysis by one of Canada’s top child care policy experts, there was finally movement on making these spaces more affordable for Ontario families — who current pay the country’s highest child care fees.
But oh, the difference an election makes! While solving the child care crisis shouldn’t have a political stripe, the prevailing Ford PCs have promised only a small tax credit that will do almost nothing to alleviate the financial pressure faced by families and nothing at all to create new child care spaces or to help retain educators to staff child care programs. To make matters worse, it’s expected that the Ford government may attack previous child care investments to pay for their ill-thought-out tax scheme.
So now, while B.C. surges forward, Ontario could lurch backward under the Ford government.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. This inequality across the country provides strong evidence that we need a real federal strategy to create a stable child care system across Canada.
After all, families in every corner of the country need financial relief from soaring child care fees. Young children in every Canadian town and city would benefit from the early learning environments of good child care. Parents in every Canadian jurisdiction could use the support for their roles as caregivers and as workers. And educators in every Canadian province and territory deserve decent wages and working conditions.
On Tuesday, National Child Day, over 100 child care advocates from right across the country will be taking this very message to Parliament Hill. Canadian families need child care that we can all afford and trust — from coast to coast to coast. We need a federal child care champion to step up and make it happen at last!
Let’s learn all we can from this incredible initiative that’s changing the lives of families in B.C., and work to make child care afford.
Carolyn Ferns is the public policy and government relations co-ordinator with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.