Queen’s Park must strengthen Ontario’s child care supports
TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – Families with young or soon-to-be-born children are falling through Ontario’s social safety net.
Feb 25 2014. By: Jonah Schein
I spend many nights lying awake thinking about the future — not just about my work or the day ahead, but about the events that I expect will change my life in less than two months.
And I don’t mean the possibility of a provincial election this spring — I’m talking about becoming a parent.
My partner and I are expecting our first child in just a few weeks.
Of course, there’s nothing like a 40-week pregnancy to meditate about the future. But despite my concerns, I keep thinking about how lucky we are. We have a strong community network with loving friends and family, and as trained social workers, we’re both pretty good at accessing services and finding help.
We knew we wanted a midwife. We got lucky. We have the incredible support of a publicly funded midwife to support us throughout pregnancy and birth, right through the first few weeks after our baby is born.
Having a midwife offers us more support, and many more choices, including the choice between a hospital and home birth. Unfortunately, only 40 per cent of people in Ontario who want a midwife can get one, and in many places in Ontario, midwifery care is not an option at all.
And when it comes to parental leave, we are also fortunate. Unlike half of all workers in the GTA who are precariously employed, federal employment insurance will provide my partner with maternity benefits that will allow her to stay home and parent full time while we still have two incomes. It’s hard to imagine facing the year ahead as a single parent, or without any parental benefits.
I know many families wait months, if not years, for child care. Months ago, following the advice of our friends, we put our names on several child care waiting lists.
If we can find a child care spot in a licensed centre it could cost between $1500 and $2000 per month.
The cost of child care is shocking, but I’m not surprised. I’ve heard from thousands of local residents about the challenges they face to raise their families in this city and some who have decided that they just can’t afford to have kids at all. I’m certainly stressed out about paying for child care, but we will figure out how to pay the fees. However, I know this is not an option for the one in 10 minimum wage workers in Ontario who barely earn $1500 each month.
This is why I have my work cut out for me — not just at home with my family, but at work as the MPP for my riding of Davenport. While the city-run daycare in Toronto costs $100 per day for infants under 18 months, just east of us in Quebec, child care costs $7 per day. In Quebec, more women can re-enter the workforce, and the provinces recoups $1.05 for every dollar they invest in child care. This is the kind of measure that we need to take as a province to prepare for the future.
We need to make sure that every family in this province gets the support they need. This is why I fought with the Ontario NDP to secure more funding for childcare at Queen’s Park. The recent Toronto City Budget included $20 million for child care — child care spaces funded through a new high income tax in Ontario that asks the most privileged members of society to pay just two pennies more on every dollar of income they earn each year over $500,000. Although this measure alone does not solve our child care dilemma in Ontario, it points to a different way of thinking about the economic benefit of our social programs and the return on investment they can deliver. Enabling more families to return to work, and having safe regulated spaces for our kids to learn is a benefit to us all.
Despite the many opportunities and advantages we hope to offer our kid, we know that it takes a village to raise a child. And we want to make sure that that village has great public services and a strong social safety net to support and protect our family and every family who lives here.
Jonah Schein is an NDP MPP for Davenport.
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