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Ontario childhood educators among lowest paid in Canada, advocates say


Ontario early childhood educators are among the lowest paid in Canada—leading to a “perfect storm” amid a workforce shortage, an advocacy group warns.

“The childcare workforce crisis is causing local childcare programs to close rooms and limit enrollment at a time when more parents are hoping to gain access to affordable childcare spaces,” Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care told reporters Tuesday.

“The sad part is that this was entirely predictable and preventable if the (Doug) Ford government had done more to raise wages for (Registered Early Childhood Educators) and childcare workers, as the community urged them to do years ago.”

According to a position paper by the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare and the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario, early childhood educators (ECEs) are being paid about $19 an hour. Other childcare staff, about 41 per cent of the workforce, have no wage floor, meaning they adhere to Ontario’s minimum wage.

The only two other provinces to pay their ECEs less are Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

Workers in Yukon and Prince Edward Island are the two top-paying provinces and territories in Canada at $32.08 and $27.11 an hour, respectively.

Rachel Neville, an Ontario ECE who was forced to leave her profession, told reporters that when she was first employed at a childcare centre, she biked to and from work because she could not justify the cost of transit.

“It felt like the childcare system was ruining my life and the low wages left me with this impossible decision,” she said. “I left the job I love because I was making $18 an hour and I couldn't afford to take the bus.”

“I never thought that I was the kind of person that cared about money until I didn't have enough.”

The Ontario government, through its $10-a-day child-care deal, agreed to a wage floor of $18 an hour for early childhood educators, which was to be increased by $1 a year up to $25 an hour.

In June, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he was working on increasing wages for early childhood educators, but very little information has been provided since then.

When asked Tuesday afternoon for an update on those wage increases, Lecce would only say that details will be available “soon.”

“We've heard them loud and clear, and we look forward in short order to bring forth a plan that will go even above the federal contribution to help stabilize the workforce to help retain these workers and obviously try to retain new ones,” he said.

Advocates are asking that wages be raised to between $30 and $40 an hour for ECEs, with an increase to at least $25 an hour for other staff. They argue that without a drastic increase in compensation, it will be a challenge to successfully implement the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care system of $10-a-day daycare. Top Stories

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