Liberals child care plan meets skepticism

Free child care plan alone might not “plug the holes in the current system,” says GBC Parent Association

When the Ontario government unveiled its pre-election budget in late March, parents were not left out.

For George Brown College (GBC) students who face the challenge of balancing school and raising children, the Liberal Party’s plans to fund free child care for preschoolers might be positive news. But for Shana Kealey, GBC Parent Association co-founder, there is more at play in child care shortfalls than simply providing the additional funding. 

“It (new child care program) doesn’t necessarily plug a lot of the holes in the current system because the demand is so high,” said Kealey, who thinks that the plan might be helpful to some parents, but is skeptical that the province will be able to create all the spaces needed. 

“It’s going to be the same type of shoddy access,” she said.

The initiative comes at a cost of $2.2 billion and covers licensed spots for children from 2 1/2-year-olds until they begin full kindergarten, the year they turn four. The program, which would roll out in 2020, should have a noticeable impact in Toronto, where child care costs are among the highest in the country.

“For preschoolers, the median cost in Toronto is in the neighborhood of $15,000 a year, the most expensive in the country,” explained David Macdonald, a senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “So, if you went from $15,000 a year to zero, that’s the biggest (drop) that you would see in any of the big cities in the country.”

Lack of child-care spaces has also been in the spotlight recently. In 2016, the Ontario government committed to creating 100,000 new licensed child-care spaces over five years for children up to four years old. This is estimated to mean approximately 30,000 new spaces for children under four in Toronto, according to a report from the city. 

Peter Tabuns, a long-time New Democrat MPP (Toronto-Danforth), also sees some missing elements in the government’s plan on this file.

“It isn’t just a question of providing subsidy dollars. You actually have to invest physically in spaces and you’re going to have to invest in a lot of them,” said Tabuns, who added that his party will address child care in their election platform to be released later this month. “I see very limited action on the part of this government.”

In a statement to The Dialog, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford said that the wait is too long for child care and that, “the program doesn’t even come into effect until 2020, despite families needing relief now.” 

GBC students and other Ontario voters will go to the polls for the general election on June 7.

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Liberals child care plan meets skepticism