Nearly 250 child care centers have signaled their intention to participate in the federal government’s $10-a-day program since applications opened across much of the GTA last week, but hundreds more remain on the sidelines. , with some saying they need more details in order to come to a final decision.
The City of Toronto, York Region and Peel Region all opened their application portals for entry into the Pan-Canadian Early Learning and Child Care Agreement last week, joining Durham which was among the first municipal service managers to begin accepting applications on June 6.
CP24.com has confirmed that 172 of Toronto’s 1,000 approved centers have so far applied to join the program, while five have officially withdrawn.
In Durham, 30 of 104 Approved Centers have applied to join the program so far, while in Peel, 22 of 199 Approved Centers have submitted their applications and in York Region, 21 of approximately 500 Approved Centers have done it.
A spokesperson for the City of Toronto told CP24 this week that it was “satisfied with the number of applications received” so far given that centers have until September 1 to apply and “will continue to work with operators and to provide support so that they can make an informed decision.”
However, some operators are concerned about committing to lower fees without critical information on funding levels, particularly in 2023 and beyond.
“In order to make a fundamental change in a business, to go from a revenue stream where parents pay fees and you have a business plan based on that to a revenue stream where you gradually reduce your fees over time. time, you have to figure out how it’s going to work and we just don’t have clear information on that,” Maggie Moser, who runs the Blossoming Minds Learning Center on Danforth Avenue, told CP24.com this week.
“There is no centre, at least among the independent centers that we know of, that have received a written contract. Some municipalities have told centers they won’t get a written contract and some have said they won’t have anything until later in the fall. This poses a problem in that you cannot make trading decisions in an unprofessional manner. »
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, visits a child care center after reaching an agreement with the federal government on a $10-a-day child care program in Brampton, Ont. , Monday, March 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The $13.2 billion agreement between Ontario and the federal government is structured so that municipalities are responsible for enrolling approved centers and agencies in the new system and distributing the money, which will then be used to reduce the fees charged to parents – by 25% on April 1 this year and by 50% on January 1 next year.
This is a unique arrangement in the context of the federal program because Ontario has long referred to municipalities as “service managers, who are responsible for planning, funding and administering services licensed child care providers in their communities.
And some for-profit operators are nervous.
Moser is the director of the Ontario Independent Child Care Association and says that right now the consensus among its roughly 1,000 members is that “on the whole people can’t sign up” because they would risk “financial ruin” by pledging to reduce fees. upfront with no certainty about future funding levels.
She also said the deal did not take into account some of the investments the for-profit operators have already made in their centers, many of which are funded by a combination of debt and investors.
“Even if they (municipalities) paid all the expenses that we currently have, they will finance the gap between the reduced revenues and the expenses and that amounts to a net benefit of zero,” she said. “So our centers were funded by us, we made the investment, we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the buildings. We mortgaged our homes and took out commercial loans, which we still have, and they want us to continue to carry those commercial loans and pay the mortgages, but they are not part of the financing. »
“They want to use our buildings now in the state they are in after the investment of these hundreds of thousands of dollars to create the daycare and they want to pay us basically the day-to-day costs but not the long-term costs that are there. been absorbed. So as a businessman you say ‘Well, why would I do that?’
PARENTS SAYS DISCOUNTS WILL BE ISSUED AS SOON AS MAY
When the Ontario government signed an agreement with the federal government to provide $10-a-day child care in the province in March, becoming the latest province to do so, it promised that Fees would be reduced by 25% beginning April 1 and parents would begin receiving rebate checks beginning in May.
But the rollout has been slower than many parents have been led to believe and so far no center in the GTA has even been officially approved to be part of the program.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration with the delays, noting that we “need to get things done as quickly as possible.”
But he said it is “ultimately up to the municipalities” to register the centers.
“They have to move on. More and more people are signing up, but if they have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our ministry and they will be more than happy to help,” he said. “We need to move on this.”
MUNICIPALITIES RECEIVED FUNDING LAST MONTH
Under the federal child care agreement, centers have until September 1 to apply, but would then have an additional 60 days to pass the savings on to parents, likely pushing back fee relief. at the end of autumn.
A young boy plays at a daycare center in Langley, British Columbia, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Speaking on the background, a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce told CP24 that “briefings and webinars to communicate details have been held with key stakeholders”, from March, when the agreement was signed.
The spokesperson said the first round of funding, some $785 million, was then distributed to municipalities during the week of May 2.
They also pointed out that unlike “the vast majority” of bilateral agreements, the agreement Ontario has with the federal government allows for-profit operators to participate in the program as long as at least 70% of subsidized spaces are operated by non-profit organizations. operators by the end of the agreement in 2026.
“Overall, parents in Ontario now have the options, benefits and supports for early years and child care services than anywhere else in the country,” notes a statement provided to CP24.
Moser, however, remains skeptical.
She said she wants to see the program’s goal – to reduce the cost of childcare to an average of $10 a day by 2026 – met and will meet with officials from the Ministry of Education next week to discuss some of the stumbling blocks preventing profit. centers like his to register.
But in the meantime, she has a message for parents who were expecting perhaps imminent savings of hundreds of dollars a month. .
“The reason your local daycare isn’t engaging is not because they don’t want to but because they can’t,” she said. “They are unable to afford the cost of membership. It is as simple as that.”
So far, only 20 of Ontario’s 47 municipal service managers have begun to formally accept applications to join or opt out of the program.
They are the following:
- parade sound
- Sault Ste Marie
- Greater Sudbury
- Prescott and Russell