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Number of affordable daycare spots shrinking as fees in GTA tops Canada
As some young families in Ontario struggle to pay for rising daycare costs, the number of available childcare spaces has also been shrinking – putting additional stress on an already strained system.
According to those in the industry, hundreds of daycare centres in the province have been affected by the rollout of full-day kindergarten. They say while it has helped some parents save thousands of dollars, many pre-school and childcare centres have lost full-day clients as a result of the program.
In Aurora, Ont., Baldwin Pre-School Centre has closed its doors after caring for children for 29 years.
"We cannot compete with free kindergarten," owner Zina Gilis told CTV Toronto on Monday. "(The business) is not viable anymore. We don’t have enough revenue to pay (for) our everyday needs."
The rollout of full-day kindergarten in Ontario has been a gradual, five-year process. It started in 2010, when approximately 35,000 young students started attending full-day classes. The complete rollout was announced this past September on the first day of the 2014-15 school year.
In order to help with the transition, the province has shelled out more than $51 million to help childcare centres upgrade their spaces to accommodate younger children as they lose older ones. But according to experts, daycares need more support.
"The province … (needs) to step up and make childcare into a comprehensive system that they have been committing (to)," Martha Friendly, executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, said. She will be speaking about the daycare closures at this week's national childcare conference in Winnipeg.
But it's not just the provincial government that needs to pitch in. According to Friendly, the federal government needs to also support the provincial governments efforts – something Ontario's Education Minister Liz Sandals agrees with.
"If you look at the European countries, childcare is really something the federal government has taken on," Sandals said.
The shrinking number of available childcare centres in Ontario comes as the cost of affordable care continues to rise. In a study released Monday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative, it found that Torontonians paid the highest compared to other large Canadian cities – averaging $1,676 a month to put an infant into daycare.
"I don’t like seeing childcare being reduced. It's already hard enough to find childcare," a mother, who used to send her child to Baldwin Pre-School Centre, said.
With files from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness and The Canadian Press