$10 a day is great but Peel is still a child care desert
On Monday Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came together at a Brampton YMCA to announce the long anticipated $10-a-day child care deal.
The $13.2 billion agreement between the two governments will allow families across the province by September 2025 to pay only $10 a day for child care, while costs by the end of this year will be about half of what many parents currently pay, an election promise Trudeau’s Liberals wanted to make good on.
Ontario was the last of the provinces/territories to fix a deal with the federal government.
The deal will span six years with an additional year of funding for at least $2.9 billion, part of the agreement Ford held out for. Ontario was granted flexibility through allocating federal funding by spending the initial $10.2 billion over four years instead of five.
“We know kids deserve the best start in life, and parents, especially moms, shouldn't have to choose between family or career,” Trudeau told the crowd at Monday’s press conference in Brampton. “A year ago, we said we would build a national system to make child care more affordable and accessible everywhere in Canada. Today, we continue to deliver on that promise.”
Starting April 1, 2022 parents and guardians can start anticipating rebates that will kick in by May with the government saying families will save an estimated $6,000 per child by the end of this year after a second rebate is introduced around December, bringing average costs down by about 50 percent. In securing this deal, the Ontario government confirmed the province’s child care tax credit program will remain in effect, which provides an estimated 300,000 families, who meet the criteria, the ability to claim up to 75 percent of their eligible expenses for licensed and unlicensed care centres to receive a tax credit on the amount.
The premier addressed the new agreement Monday.
“This deal will immediately reduce the cost of child care in Ontario, and provide refunds retroactive to April 1,” Ford said. “As the Prime Minister mentioned, April 1 is 25 percent, and at the end of the year is another 25 percent. So really, instantly you're seeing the results. This is the next step we're taking to keep costs down for people in our province.”
In addition to the money that will go toward subsidizing child care centres, the deal will add 86,000 child care spaces for children five years old and under by the end of 2026.
On the face of it, the deal is progressive and huge benefit to young families who pay between $52 and $77 for child care a day in Peel. But the region is struggling with one glaring shortcoming of the exciting announcement.
The Region is home to 28,460 licensed spaces for children 5 and under, but needs at least 40,000 additional spaces over the next four years for residents, especially those who can least afford current costs, to benefit from the new deal.
“The Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care program is exciting news and will dramatically improve the affordability of child care for many families in Peel,” a Regional spokesperson told The Pointer in an email.
Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of Canada, signing a deal with Minister of Education of Ontario, Stephen Lecce.
(Screenshot from Youtube)
With only 86,000 new spaces stretched across Ontario, Peel, based on population, would only get about 8,600 new spaces, leaving more than half of the families in need without access to child care in the region.
Peel has struggled to secure child care spaces, with Brampton described as a “child care desert” in 2018.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) created a map using a complete list of all licensed child care spaces and comparing it to the number of children found in each postcode in 2018.
In order to compare the number of children found in each area, the 2018 child care study looked only at licensed child care spaces, excluding many home daycares.
(The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)
Brampton’s worst child care desert is found in the L6R area, with only 10 percent coverage for the 4,325 children in the area. The best coverage is the L6Z area providing 40 percent coverage for children there.
In Mississauga the most covered area was the L4W postcode near Pearson International Airport. In Malton, the L4T postcode area had only 242 spots for 1,855 children, a 13 percent coverage.
The issue took centre stage during the early days of the pandemic when the government ordered child care spaces to close due to viral spread. This had a compounding effect on parents, particularly mothers, who carried the burden of staying home with young children instead of going to work.
“It is the fruit of more than half a century of activism by Canadian feminists who have understood for a really, really long time that early learning and child care was an essential feminist policy, but also an essential economic policy,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at Monday’s announcement.
According to Statistics Canada’s Labour report, in March 2020 women accounted for 62.5 percent of overall employment losses. Even after the first initial lockdown was lifted and more people went back to work, women accounted for 56.4 percent of the year-over-year employment losses between October 2020 and February 2021.
“One possible explanation for the stark differences in employment losses by gender that was not explored in this study is family responsibilities, especially in the context of the forced daycare and school closures in several provinces during the pandemic,” the report from Statistics Canada stated.
Without access to reasonably priced and safe spaces, parents of children had to stay home. Those of school aged children sometimes worked from home if their employer allowed it while students completed online learning.
The new addition to child care spaces and the eventual transition to $10-a-day care in 2024 for many families could benefit Peel greatly but with many moving parts, regional staff are left figuring out the logistics.
“Early Years and Child Care staff are working through the details of what the agreement will mean for us as the service system manager and what it will mean for families and providers,” a Regional spokesperson said. “We will work with our child care partners and families as more information becomes available.”
It’s unclear if placements in the additional spaces will be based on need. One criticism of the federal program and the agreements now with all provinces and territories, is the lack of clarity about how families will be prioritized and whether or not funding will benefit those who need it most first.
In 2018, CCPA’s study found Brampton had the second-worst provision of child care in Canada, with Mississauga also inside the top ten worst child care deserts. Brampton had a child care coverage rate of just over 21 percent, while Mississauga had a rate of 35 percent.
Even if Peel is allotted funding under the new agreement, the local government will need to create and secure licensed spaces on its own dime, unless further government funding can be secured.
For at least 2022 it is unlikely Peel will create more spaces, since the budget shows a $7.1 million gap. Programs run through the Region provided approximately 50,000 spaces last year, most of which is funded by the Province. Changes to the 2021 provincial budget reduced money for spaces by $5 million dollars in Peel, with $3.8 from the year previous. This is on top of the $3.3 million cut for 2022, leaving the Region with a gap to face.
During budget deliberations, staff worked to determine how to keep spaces online in Peel, despite provincial cuts. A patchwork of solutions was settled on. The $3.8 million impacts from provincial cuts will be funded through reserves over the next four years, meaning taxpayers won’t feel the sting, at least not right now. The $3.3 million in further cuts has been absorbed “through efficiencies and program delivery changes”, the budget states.
Staff confirmed no funding for more spaces can be found at this time.
“There is no Regional commitment to fund the creation of the spaces as we are waiting more details from the provincial and federal governments related to the capital spaces to support the Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care Program,” the spokesperson said.
In late November 2021, The Pointer approached Peel in anticipation of the national $10-a-day child care deal.
A spokesperson for the Region at the time said the implementation of a new national child care plan would “require significant changes” to the current system and that implementing these would come with costs.
After the deal was announced, Peel staff told The Pointer in order to plan, create and add more spaces, the Region will be working closely with licensed child care providers and school boards.
“Child care demand is analyzed to inform expansion, with consideration to factors such as current levels of service, anticipated child population growth and other socio-demographic information (such as Low Income Measure),” the spokesperson told The Pointer in an email.
Securing child care spaces is only half the battle for Peel Region.
In the same March report, Regional staff explained a crisis that has been brewing for years, the retention and hiring of qualified early childhood educators, has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
When daycare and child care spaces for children did open up during the pandemic, staff were met with more stress, increased hours and the confusion of constantly changing public health restrictions. Based on 2022 data from the Region, registered ECEs in Peel make on average $18.08 an hour while not in a supervisory role and before any provincial wage enhancements.
Like the nursing crisis, many ECEs have decided to leave the industry due to the hardship of caring for children during a turbulent time. The staff report states, “a 2021 survey indicated that as many as 72 percent of Peel ECEs are considering leaving the sector.”
This, coupled with increases in demand with the $10-a-day child care announcement, places Peel in a difficult spot.
Staff offered council an opportunity to increase the number of ECEs working in Peel by partnering with colleges and other local governments. This pilot project is being funded with part of the $11.5 million from the Ministry of Education (originally from the federal government) allocated during the 2022 Regional budget to deal with staffing shortages.
“This one-time funding is to be used to pilot new and innovative initiatives to retain and recruit a high-quality child care and early years workforce,” staff explained.
The accelerated ECE program is a collaborative effort between Early Years and Child Care Service Systems in the Greater Toronto Area (Peel, Toronto, Region of Durham and Region of Halton) and Ontario colleges (George Brown, Durham, Centennial, Sheridan, Seneca and others) that offer programs approved by the College of ECEs.
By working collaboratively to address the staffing crisis and increase qualified ECEs, the partnership will work to recruit more students into the accelerated programs. Colleges will continue to decide which applicants will be in the program and Regional staff will monitor the progress.
“For Peel to be a part of this innovative solution, Early Years and Child Care Services needs authority to flow funding directly to colleges so they can offer a number of spaces at no cost and additional spaces at a reduced cost to qualified applicants,” the staff report reads.
This deal could bring an additional 1,905 ECEs over the next two years. It will use approximately 21 percent of the funding secured, with the remainder for other key initiatives approved by the Ministry of Education. At this time, a spokesperson for Peel said there are 3,153 ECEs working in both home-based and centre-based child care in the Region.
Staff warn if the Region does not participate in the program, “The ECE shortage may prevent the necessary growth of Peel’s child care sector, which will eventually result in waitlists for child care. It may also mean that families will not be able to benefit from reduced child care fees funded by the Federal Government when the National Child Care agreement with the Province is signed.”
Further approval will be going to council in the coming months.
Email: [email protected]
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