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Local 79 responds to Children's Services Report

Local 79 President Tim Maguire’s submission to the Community Development and Recreation Committee on new Provincial funding for child care and response to the Provincial Discussion Paper on Modernizing Child Care.

Dear Councillor Mammoliti and Members of the Community Development and Recreation Committee:
RE:     CD15.7- New Provincial Funding for Child Care and Response to Provincial Discussion Paper

On behalf of CUPE Local 79 members working in Toronto’s municipal child care sector, I would like to thank Children’s Services for your report on the allocation of funding from the Provincial Budget. This one-time funding is being used to stabilize the child care system and help with the transition to full-day kindergarten. If the provincial government made this funding an annual resource for the City, it would be most welcome for all concerned.

I would like to talk about the Province’s discussion paper, Modernizing Child Care in Ontario: Sharing Conversations, Strengthening Partnerships, Working Together. In reviewing the discussion paper and the City’s response there were areas of concern that I would like to share with you today. The stated goal is to stabilize child care throughout Ontario without sacrificing the quality of care along the way. Although there are tens of thousands of families across the province waiting for accessible, licensed child care, the provincial government’s discussion paper states, “Over the next three years, the process of modernization will not be about expanding the current system. It will be about stabilizing and transforming the system to enable higher-quality, consistent services that can support growth in the future.”

It was disappointing to note that this discussion paper deals with a short-term three year action plan, not a long-term vision for child care in order to grow the system. CUPE Local 79 would like to see a long-term, policy framework supporting a publicly-managed and publicly-funded system. As full-day kindergarten rolls out in Toronto and across the province, the long-term planning for child care centres becomes more and more of an imperative.

Modernizing Legislative and Regulatory Framework is one of the key areas of the discussion paper that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. CUPE Local 79 would like specifics of what legislative and regulatory changes are planned for the Day Nurseries Act (DNA). Many questions were raised at the consultations about changing ratios, age group changes, nutrition and the complexities of aligning child care with full-day kindergarten. The word often being used is ‘flexibility’. Flexibility is not a bad thing, but if it means higher ratios of children in the care of Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) it would have a direct and detrimental effect on quality.

Any discussion on modernizing child care in Ontario must be focused on raising the bar on quality indicators such as group size, child-staff ratios, ECE requirements, and play-based learning environments. The provincial government should not expand or promote informal home-based child care. This is not the way to grow and develop a quality child care system.

 There is very little information provided in the discussion paper about proposed legislative/licensing changes for six to 12 year-olds, and no details provided about moving this age group to a recreation program model.

 The discussion paper refers to risk-based licensing and a monitoring system approach that aligns with the provincial government’s Open for Business Initiative Act. CUPE Local 79 is concerned that the Province is recommending opening up the ‘market’ to increasing privatization and competition that will come from Big Box child care corporations. No jurisdiction in which child care is treated as a private business has a track record of equitable access or high quality. Quality benchmarks in child care are achieved through public management, public funding and public/not-for-profit delivery.

 The future vision of child care for Toronto and Ontario can no longer be about saving the system, or sustaining the system. It must be about how we can grow a high-quality, accessible, accountable public/not-for-profit child care system.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire
President

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