January 2016 — The Ottawa Regional Women’s Committee attended the Ontario government’s Consultation on Early Years and Child Care Strategy on Monday, January 16. Earlier in 2016, the Wynne Liberals committed to the creation of 100,000 new child care spaces. Of course, we know that these spaces are not costed equally–that infant spaces cost more than toddler spaces, for instance. Knowing this, the ORWC was interested in finding out what the government had in mind.
Though the Consultation was focused on access, affordability, and quality of services, it was clear that the Ministry was particularly interested in public-private “solutions” such as incentivizing corporate donations. It was further suggested that Ontarians had to prioritize and make choices between quality OR affordability. For Judith Price, a PSAC member and grandmother of 3 who attended the consultation, choosing between quality and affordability is not an option.
In contrast, the ORWC advocated for a publicly funded system, where there are spaces for all children, much like there are spaces in kindergarten for all children. After all, isn’t early childhood and preschool learning as important as school-based learning? If child care centres were adequately funded, they would not be dependent on parent fees in order to operate. Reasonable fees could be prorated to level of income, making child care affordable for all. Indeed, $15 per day would be a significant improvement to the current $89 per day rate in urban Ottawa centres. And while corporate donations are not, in themselves, a problem, relying on them as a source of funding creates a patchwork system of resource distribution. We need a comprehensive system to ensure that all children have access to quality, affordable child care, including in rural and disadvantaged settings.