Councillors call child-care changes impacting subsidized daycare ‘not acceptable’
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, May 3, 2019 4:10PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 3, 2019 7:35PM EDT
City councillors, as well as parents and advocates, are warning the provincial government of the impact changes made to child care funding will have on Toronto families.
At a news conference held Friday morning, councillors from across the political spectrum addressed a memo sent by city manager Chris Murray the day before that said changes made by the Ontario government regarding child care will result in a potential funding shortfall of $84.8 million in 2019.
According to city calculations, this could put more than 6,000 subsidized daycare spaces for low-income households in jeopardy.
“This is not acceptable,” said Michael Thompson, councillor for Ward 21. “This would force thousands of families to make impossible choices about keeping their jobs, feeding their families, paying rent or putting their child in a safe, licensed child care facility.”
In the memo, which was obtained by CP24 Thursday evening, Murray said that the $84.8 million can be broken down into a $28.6 million for reduction in allocation of funding and $56.2 million for cost-sharing changes.
The number was estimated based on the province’s new child-care tax credit and an update from Children’s Services, Murray said.
The memo also indicated that the city “was not consulted or provided with any advance warning of these changes.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement that the child care cuts will hurt Toronto families and put child care subsidies at risk. He called on Progressive Conservative MPPs who represent Toronto ridings to “speak up on behalf of their constituents.”
“Once again, we are seeing the provincial government downloading by stealth with another retroactive and drastic cut to vital services, which municipalities are responsible for providing, without any meaningful consultation,” Tory said. “This is yet another serious, last-minute, deep cut to critical services that will put the quality, accessibility and affordability of child care in Toronto at risk.”
‘This is a direct attack on youth,’ councillor Mike Layton says
At the news conference, Ward 11 Coun. Mike Layton said that councillors are going to continue to fight for families who struggle to pay for child care.
“This is going to hurt Toronto families,” Mike Layton said. “The premier and the provincial government have consistently turned their back on the city when we’ve asked to stay at the table with us”
Ward 17 Coun. Shelley Carroll said the reduction in funding will not only impact low-income families, but will hurt every family that relies on children services in Toronto.
“This person ran to run a provincial government and said they will deal with their deficit and he would deal with waste in their government and so far all we’ve seen him do is dip his big fist into the city’s budget and find his efficiencies there,” Carroll said.
A number of parents were also present at the news conference, including Sinead Rafferty, who is an early child care educator. She told reporters that she has been on dozens of child care wait lists since she was five months pregnant. Two years later, her son is a toddler and she said she is still waiting for a space.
“My partner and I are running out of our savings, trying to make things meet on one income since our family doesn’t even qualify for a subsidy,” Rafferty said. “I don’t even know how we could afford an additional $2,000 a month on top of our rent and other living expenses.”
Province says city is ‘spreading misinformation’
In response to concerns put forth by city councillors, a spokesperson for the ministry of education said that the figures outlined in the city manager’s memo are “completely inaccurate and only create unnecessary fear and anxiety for parents.”
“Our changes will amount to less than half of what the City of Toronto has suggested,” Kayla Iafelice said in a statement. “The fact is, our changes will mean a reduction of just over $27 million. This number is verified by our independent civil servants.”
“The City of Toronto has an operating budget of almost $14 billion dollars and it is clear that they are not operating frontline services in the most efficient manner possible.”
Speaking with CTV News Toronto at Queen’s Park, Stan Cho, the Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board, said that there is about $433 million allocated for child care services in Toronto in the Ontario budget.
“There is also the $2 billion that our government is investing to help parents directly with child care services. We are, of course, talking about the child care tax credit, a very flexible program,” Cho said.
“The $27 million reduction is because we’ve seen the City of Toronto’s administrative budgets increase and we’ve seen spending that isn’t the most appropriate to take place. Let’s work together to find those efficiencies and respect the taxpayers dollar.”