Tory: City will continue to fund child care occupancy grants in 2017
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, February 6, 2017 7:56AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 6, 2017 12:35PM EST
Mayor John Tory announced Monday that the city intends to reverse a controversial budget proposal that, if approved, would have eliminated an operating grant that subsidizes costs for 350 child-care centres in the city.
Speaking at the John A. Leslie Childcare Centre in Scarborough this morning, Tory said the city has now decided it will continue to fund the occupancy grants in 2017.
“This $1.13 million investment in 2017 will mean that the parents of more than 8,000 children in Toronto will not see their fees go up on account of any change to those occupancy grants,” Tory said.
Tory recently came under fire from child care advocates who said the elimination of the grant could increase the cost of child care for some parents by as much as $350 per year, per child.
“Although there is a funding issue with the province… asking people to pay more for child care right now is not reasonable and it is not right,” Tory said.
“So we will maintain the occupancy grant in 2017 while we work hard to see these costs transitioned to where they belong, namely the province of Ontario.”
Tory said the city will maintain the grants in addition to adding the previously announced 300 new child care subsidies in 2017.
“We can’t always agree to do what other people want but I think in the process of putting forward and putting together a budget, which is a very complicated and difficult task, especially this year, we have shown a number of times, including with this announcement today, that we have been prepared to listen to what people think is the right way to go and help wherever we can,” Tory added.
Tory urges Wynne to invest more in child care:
Tory reiterated the need for the province to come to the table with more funding and said he sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne today, asking the provincial government to do more to address the “child care affordability crisis” in Toronto.
In a letter, Tory said while he appreciates the provincial government’s promise to create 100,000 new child care spaces, the investment is not enough.
“After our last meeting, I stated it was not business as usual between our two governments. I firmly believe that when it comes to issues like child care and housing, it can no longer be business as usual because the status quo leaves Toronto taxpayers footing the bills that the province should be paying,” Tory’s letter read.
“Given your recent comments and concerns about affordability for Ontario residents, I want to draw your attention the child care affordability crisis unfolding in Toronto and the need for Queen’s Park to address the issue.”
The city, Tory said, needs the province’s help to increase subsidies and provide “greater base funding.”
He added that the ratio of subsidies to spaces has been declining since 2010 and is asking the province to “act immediately” by providing an additional 4,918 subsidies.
“Going forward, we also ask that any new provincial initiatives to expand the early learning and child care system, including capital investments and growth in school age programs, be accompanied by investments in additional fee subsidies and other measures that address affordability barriers for families, and that such funding keep pace with the annual rate of inflation,” Tory wrote.
Tory’s letter comes less than two weeks after Wynne rejected the city’s request for permission to introduce road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway.
Tory previously called Wynne’s decision on tolls “shortsighted.”
Following a meeting between the two leaders last week, Tory said he will continue to “fight” for provincial funding for public transportation, housing and child care.
“They have to be our partners in meeting those needs, simple as that,” Tory said in a news conference after the meeting.
Child care advocate calls Tory 'a new ally'
Speaking to CP24 Monday, Carolyn Ferns, a spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, said advocates are pleased the mayor has had a change of heart and decided to continue to fund the occupancy grants.
"We’re really happy that he has reversed the cut that was planned to child care grants and we’ve been working with parents and educators to get this very announcement happening today," she said.
"That said, we are still in a state of crisis. There are still (licenced) spaces for only 20 per cent of children here in Toronto and we know child care, even for those who can find it, is unaffordable for 75 per cent of Toronto families. So there is a lot more needed."
She called Tory a "new ally" for those who are fighting for better child care in the city.
"We hope we can continue to count on the mayor’s voice when we talk to the province," she said.