Like public health cuts, city and province differ over loss of daycare subsidies

The Ford Government is once again accusing City Hall of spreading misinformation, this time over the city manager's projection that due to funding changes, over 6,000 subsidized daycare spots are at risk. 

In a letter to Mayor John Tory and the rest of council, Chris Murray said recent funding changes will result in a loss of 6,166 subsidies. 

"Staff estimate the cumulative impact of the changes at $84.8 million in 2019 ($28.6 million due to a reduction in allocation, and $56.2 million due to cost-sharing changes)" Murray said. 

Then after city councillors were joined by several parents at City Hall denouncing the move, Education Minister Lisa Thompson pointed the finger at the municipality.

"The figures outlined in the memo from the City are completely inaccurate and only create unnecessary fear and anxiety for parents," she said. "The fact is, our changes will mean a reduction of just over $27 million."

One of those parents is father Elliott Filby, whose three-year-old son is in daycare. 

"The only reason that my son can attend child care and gain this life-changing experience is that our family receives full subsidy," he said. "Without the subsidy, my son simply wouldn't be able to have the immense benefits that he has now." 

But the province says the city is at fault for Filby and other parents' concern. 

Like with funding changes to Toronto Public Health, the province expects the City will be able to make up the funding difference through efficiencies. 

"The City of Toronto has an operating budget of almost $14 billion dollars and it is clear that they are not operating frontline services in the most efficient manner possible," Thompson said. 

Cllr. Shelley Carroll said the city is already undertaking those types of measures. 

"Moms used to have to troop all of them (children) to central offices once a year and present their pay stubs to prove that they still need a subsidy, we're taking that online right now," she said as an example. 

Thompson said the province wants the city to reduce administrative spending by five per cent and not cut subsidies, but Deputy Mayor and Cllr. Michael Thompson said that's not the case. 

"When we look at the numbers, 81.2 per cent of the cuts are in fact not administrative," he said. "That represents $68.9 million."

Thompson said while they're waiting on more information from the province, they're basing the projected cuts on the details they have received. 

The deputy mayor also clarified the cut would mean 6,166 families would lose their current spot and not that it would mean 6,166 less spots available for next year. 

When asked how the city would decide which families lose their subsidies, Thompson said that hasn't determined, but hopefully it won't happen if they can get the province to reverse its decision. 

"To suggest that it's all about administrative costs and so on, that's not accurate and we would like to correct that, that can only be done by sitting in collaboration with the province," he said. 

The city and the province have also been having a public dispute over funding changes to Toronto Public Health, where the city is projecting a $1 billion cut over 10 years. 

The province has challenged those numbers and despite both Mayor John Tory and Health Minister Christine Elliott saying they look forward to meeting, there are no scheduled talks between the two.