Election HKLB: Child care policies vary across platforms
By Sue Tiffin
Published May 22, 2018
Affordability and access to reliable child care isn’t the number one election issue local provincial candidates say they’re hearing about from constituents, but it’s one parties are all making a priority in their platforms to help families deal with high child care costs and lack of space in licensed programs.
In Ontario, child care fees for kids not yet old enough to attend school are among the highest in the country, with some parents paying up to $21,000 per year.
Waiting lists can leave parents and caregivers scrambling for alternative care, with space at licensed daycares for just 23 per cent of children, according to Gordon Cleveland, a U of T economist who earlier this year released a 315-page report, Affordable For All: Making Licensed Child Care Affordable in Ontario commissioned by the province which detailed affordability of licensed child care.
The Liberals intend to provide fully government-funded child care for preschoolers by 2020.
Licensed child care would be free for preschoolers between the ages of 2.5 to full-day kindergarten starting in 2020.
A provincial wage grid would improve compensation for early childhood educators starting in 2020.
“By investing $2.2 billion over three years, free child care for preschoolers will save families $17,000 until they reach full-day kindergarten, which has saved families $6,500,” said HKLB Liberal candidate Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger.
“Every dollar invested in child care translates to a $2.50 benefit to the Ontario economy because of increases in the working hours and wages of women.”
Cramp-Waldinsperger said she’s hearing from families that child care is too expensive, and that some families find one parent is putting their career or education on hold to stay at home due to challenges of cost.
She said the Liberal child care program helps close the gender wage gap, and that women will get more control over their return to work.
“Currently, too many families cannot afford to enrol their children in licensed child care in our riding, and across the province,” she said.
“Every child deserves the best start to create the brightest future, regardless of their family’s household income. We heard this, and acted upon it.”
The NDP plan promises to roll out free daycare to families earning less than a $40,000 household income, and $12 per day fees for those earning more than $40,000 by 2021.
“After 15 years of Liberal control, they had the choice to make child care affordable, and instead they actually made it one of the most expensive in Canada, one of the most expensive provinces to have child care,” said Zac Miller, the HKLB NDP candidate.
To meet what Miller said would be a sure increase in demand with the new child care policy in place, the NDP announced 202,000 affordable new child care spaces will be built.
Early childhood educators in non-profit centres would see an immediate increase in wages.
“Andrea Horwath and us New Democrats, we feel that families deserve a lot better,” said Miller. “So when we take government, we will start with a provincewide child care plan, starting out with infant and in the second year, moving toward toddlers and in the third year moving toward preschoolers.”
Miller said on the campaign trail he’s heard more concerns so far about health care and housing, policies and ensuring needs of municipalities are not left behind, but that change is needed.
“We get it, that Ontario has become unaffordable, and we’re not going to actually ignore the problems anymore,” he said.
“We’re going to start addressing them. Affordable child care is a good place to start and begin.”
In a press release from Laurie Scott’s office dated April 28, the current MPP and HKLB Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate announced a plan to introduce a new child care tax rebate for parents of children under 15 years of age.
“Few decisions are as personal, or important, to parents as the care of their child,” said Scott. “A one-size-fits-all approach to child care leaves many families struggling to find affordable services that work for their family’s needs. In places like Haliburton County and other rural communities across the province, we need flexibility for child care options.”
The PC’s plan of an Ontario Childcare Rebate would pay up to 75 per cent of a family’s child care expense, with lower income families receiving the most support.
The child care plan covers multiple forms of care.
“Our plan will cover any form of child care that works for individual families and their unique situations,” said Scott. “Licensed care, independent care, babysitters, nannies and after-school programs will all be covered. Our plan is modest, responsible and affordable. It covers more kids, and more families. And, most importantly, it respects parents and provides them with the ability to choose the kind of child care that works best for them.”
Scott said the issue hasn’t come up often in her conversations with constituents, but families are looking for more affordable, flexible options.
“It’s not the number one issue you hear, but it is just part of trying to make things more affordable and giving people more money back,” said Scott.
Cramp-Waldinsperger said the Conservative’s platform will contain billions in planned cuts that will see essential programs put in jeopardy.
“This is irresponsible and will completely disrupt the existing child-care system that families rely on and any future plans for free preschool child care,” she said.
The provincial election takes place June 7.