As deadline approaches to register for $10-a-day child care program, Ontario’s take-up falls behind


Child care operators have until the provincial deadline of September 1 to confirm their intention to participate in the $10-a-day child care program.

Once approved, an operator has 60 days to reimburse families for 25% of fees paid retroactively to April 1 for eligible children.

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Of the approximately 900 for-profit operators who are members of the Ontario Association of Independent Child Care Centers (OAICC), “none” have said they have chosen to join so far.

“Some have already pulled out. Most are waiting to see what resolution can be reached with the province,” said OAICC director Maggie Moser.

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Moser said his members would jeopardize their businesses if they pledged to lower fees without a contract outlining the details of the funding.

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“Without a contract, you’re basically being asked to sign a blank check… We’ve been told nothing will be available for 2023,” she said.

Moser called the rollout of the program a “mess.”

“It’s chaos. It’s disorganized. There is information from across the province that varies… At this time we cannot register with the information we have. It would essentially force us into bankruptcy, so we’re not in a position to do that,” she said.

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More than 200 child care centers have submitted applications to the City of Toronto to participate in the pan-Canadian early learning and child care system (CWELCC), while nine child care centers have confirmed their intention to withdraw for 2022.

Shanlee McNamee, Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Services for the City of Toronto, told Global News, “The city is pleased with the current pace of applications.”

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Aurelia Engstrom from East York is a mother of two. Her youngest will start daycare in 2023, by which time she hopes it will only cost her $10 a day, unlike what she is currently paying for her eldest daughter.

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“It’s something we’ve needed for so long to help women, primary caregivers, get back into the workforce. Especially, I think, at a time when we have seen throughout the pandemic how most of the burden has fallen on primary caregivers and mothers to care for their children,” she said.

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Engstrom remembers considering moving to Quebec, where child care centers are subsidized and cost much less than in Ontario.

“I am optimistic that this will eventually be implemented. I’m a little concerned that we’re seeing some sort of backtracking from our government…I’m concerned that we’re seeing something like $4 billion disappear – just like the pandemic funds disappeared. I’m concerned about everything that’s going on. I don’t have much faith in our provincial government,” Engstrom said.

Ontario’s child care agreement with the federal government is structured so that municipalities are responsible for enrolling and distributing funds.

When Emeline, now four months old, finally starts daycare, her big sister will start school.

“We’re hoping to eventually see that 25% reduction, which would make a big difference,” Engstrom said.

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