The daycare funding gap

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Tue Mar 23 2010

It can be difficult to relate the big-picture numbers in a provincial budget to consequences for the average family.

But child-care advocates are clear about exactly what will happen if the budget to be brought down on Thursday does not include $63.5 million to replace expiring federal child care funding: the province will lose 7,600 subsidized child-care spaces when we desperately need more of them; thousands of child-care workers will lose their jobs when new jobs are scarce; and thousands of parents, faced with the prospect of paying more for child care than they earn, may have to quit working entirely.

So it is troubling that Premier Dalton McGuinty continues to try to shift the blame for this problem to Ottawa.

Rather than respond to questions in the Legislature Monday about whether the child-care spaces will be saved, McGuinty urged NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to join him “to convince the federal government that they should restore that funding on a permanent basis.”

Replied Horwath: “Parents don’t want the blame game.”

She’s right. Moreover, McGuinty’s contention that Ottawa should pay is now moot, given that the federal budget, tabled earlier this month, did not include the funding.

It is understandable that McGuinty, whose government is struggling with a substantial deficit, does not want to take on any new obligations. But the province cannot afford to lose these daycare spaces in a political squabble over who should pay.

Just as Ontario complains that Ottawa is shirking its responsibilities, Toronto is coping with ongoing shortfalls in provincial transfers for child care. And yet, despite Toronto’s own financial challenges, early this month the city’s budget committee found more than $1 million to prevent a crisis in 370 daycares.

The province would do well to follow that example.

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