For Toronto parents already coping with a recession and the fear of losing their jobs (if it hasn’t happened already), the thought that daycare spots could also be cut is an unwelcome burden.
“I’m definitely very concerned,” outlines Nicholette Choba. She has a one-year-old son, David, and is six months pregnant.
“I really do need my children to be in daycare for me to go back to work.”
Toronto is preparing to close up to 6,000 of its city-run subsidized spaces. That’s one-quarter of the spots in the cash-strapped system.
During the 2003 election, Ontario’s Liberal government promised to spend $300 million on child care.
In 2005, a federal-provincial agreement would have seen Ottawa provide $1.8 billion over five years to the province.
However, when the Conservatives took over Parliament Hill in 2006, that agreement was scrapped in favour of the universal child-care benefit, which provides $100 per month for each child under the age of six.
According to a city assessment, current funds will run out in 14 months.
“We have a funding challenge in 2010,” acknowledged Councillor Janet Davis, chair of the Community Development Committee.
“That’s when the federal money will run out. We’re looking at all the options to make sure that we don’t have to cut any spaces.”
For now, there are fewer spots in September.
“It’s unacceptable and it’s about time Queen’s Park stepped up to the plate,” charged Councillor Adam Vaughan.
Meanwhile, Premier Dalton McGuinty pointed the finger at Ottawa.
“I think it’s in the federal government’s interest, I think it’s in our interest, I think it’s in Toronto’s interest, but most importantly it’s in the interest of our children,” he said.
“We’re spending three times as much money on early childcare as the previous Liberal government,” countered Minister of Human Resources and Skills Diane Finley.