UPDATE: City staff report PC funding changes would mean 760 less child care subsidies next year

child-care

Toronto city staff now say there will be 760 less child care fee subsidies available to families next year, in an updated report on funding changes from the provincial government. 

Because of the PCs decision to change the funding formula for expansion from 100 per cent to an 80/20 provincial-municipal split, the city is facing a funding hole of $15 million for 2020. 

"This loss of funding could equate to the reduction of approximately 760 child care fee subsidies in 2020, which would result in a return to pre-2018 levels of approximately 29,940 available subsidies," the report says. 

The news of going backwards comes as there's currently over 17,000 children on a wait list for a subsidy. 

"I'm confident that members of council will do everything in our power to protect Toronto families," Cllr. Joe Cressy said at a news conference with colleagues and advocates. "But 17,000 families are on the waiting list for subsidies and this provincial government is cutting existing subsidies, it's unacceptable." 

But PC MPP Stan Cho said more details regarding child care funding are expected later this year. 

"The multi-year planning process is just beginning so Minister Lecce (Education Minister Stephen Lecce) hasn't released any figures yet, so I think it's a bit of a cart before the horse at this point," he said. 

"I'd ask the partners at the City of Toronto to just hold tight and keep the dialogue going, but wait for the figures, because it's a little premature." 

The request on the funding consequences was made by council, after the Ford Government cancelled plans to impose retroactive cuts to child care funding, but maintained changes for 2020 and beyond. 

City staff are also recommending the approval of 49 future child care centres, the capital costs of which will be covered by the province, with the city responsible for $35 million in operating costs. 

"Children's Services anticipates that these future impacts can be partially mitigated through a combination of general operating funding, fee subsidies, and incremental parent fees, and will include any additional pressures in the appropriate budget and plan submission if needed," the report said. 

However, the report also says the centres - which would offer 3,000 more spaces - aren't expected to be operational until 2022, but more likely, 2025.
 
While Cho said more details are coming, he did reiterate that the PCs have been clear with the City of Toronto having to be more efficient.

Cllr. Mike Layton points out, this isn't new. 

"We're in this time where we're getting services downloaded on us from public health and from other areas, we're not going to be able to find money to cover it all or to continue expanding the programs," he said.  

On the new centres, Cressy said despite the operational funding needs, they have to get built. 

"It is risky, but when it comes to ensuring that parents and kids in this city have access to child care, we're not prepared to tell them that we're going to turn our back on them," he said. 

Carolyn Ferns with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care said the idea of the city simply finding efficiencies isn't as simple as it sounds. 

"They don't understand how close non-profit child care centres watch their budgets, how little wiggle room there is and they clearly don't understand how high the need is," she said. "There's not room to cut $15 million, not at all." 

Cho said while more funding information is coming, he didn't oppose the city staff crunching the numbers they had. 

"Everyone there is doing their job and they're our partners in this and they're working their best to find the best value for taxpayer money, just as we are," he said. "The only suggestion I have is to keep the dialogue going directly with us."