It's time for Ontario to take aggressive action on child poverty despite a $25-billion deficit because the longer the province waits to deal with the burden, the more expensive it's going to get, child poverty advocates said Tuesday.

Despite the government's promise to lift 90,000 children out poverty by 2013, one in every nine children currently lives in poverty in Ontario, where the poverty rate was 11.7 per cent even before the recession became full-blown, the group Ontario Campaign 2000 said.

"We don't want to see any slowing of the political commitment by this government to poverty reduction, nor the investment" because of the deficit, said Jacquie Maund of Campaign 2000.

"Ontario's poverty reduction strategy was developed before the full force of the recession hit Ontario, so we're calling today on the province to follow through on its commitment and to move faster and to move further to make a real dent in our poverty rate."

Economist Armine Yalnizyan says it's time to do the "the full monty" on poverty.

"This is not the time to be very delicate about what you're doing, it has huge payouts right now and down the road," Yalnizyan said.

"The longer we wait in attacking the poverty burden, the longer we're going to be paying an excess price for it."

Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province has been making progress despite the recession, noting there has been an increase to the Ontario Child Benefit.

The province is also moving ahead with full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds -- although that plan was scaled back because of the recession.

"Experts on poverty will tell you that one of the most important things that we could do to address poverty over the long term is to ensure that kids get the best possible start in education," McGuinty said.

Maund said full-day kindergarten was an important move, but added it will take time to implement and child care investments are needed now.

The group is asking for more money for social assistance, a new monthly housing benefit for low-income tenants, funding for affordable child care and an increase to the Ontario Child Benefit to a maximum of $125 per month.

Shirwanda Nedd, 26, said the availability of affordable child care will help determine whether she can pursue a teaching degree at York University in Toronto.

The young mother has already graduated from Ryerson with a degree in social work, but feels the extra eight months of education could help her break away from a life of poverty.

Nedd, who moved to Canada in 1993, said her family was able to survive because of affordable housing and childcare when she was young.

She'd like the same for her three-month-old son, because after she pays $400 into her student loans every month and more than $1,000 in rent, she cannot afford the $1,000 a month York charges for day care.

"I grew up in poverty and what I did for myself was I went to school to get out of it," Nedd said.

"But because if my OSAP debt I was kept in the same position."

Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten said the province was taking stock of its progress over the past year and will present its annual report next week.