How intense pressure from for-profit daycares has transformed Ontario’s rollout of $10-a-day child care — and sparked a political standoff over how much parents qualify for and for how long
Makayla was supposed to get her first day of pre-school today at the same daycare she has known since she was a baby. She will be in tears.
“I haven’t slept since I heard this news,” the Toronto mother of two says. “I’m terrified.”
She was supposed to be one of roughly 1,000 parents — a tiny fraction of all the children in Ontario who get their first day of school from child care (many are enrolled in full-day kindergarten), but it will mark a watershed in the province’s plan to provide free child care to all Ontario students from kindergarten onward. The announcement was made by the province’s Ministry of Education (MOE) alongside Bill 26, the province’s new universal daycare plan, in late November 2016.
But more than one-in-five of the province’s 1,500-child daycares would no longer be eligible for the program if a newly implemented regulation is not amended, making more than 3,000 places ineligible for the entire plan. To avoid this, it has been locked in a political stalemate between parents and a ministry tasked with making sure all children receive adequate, universal, affordable, and accessible early childhood education; a stalemate over how long parents (and the minister responsible for implementing the plan) are eligible for the child care program and how many hours they can earn while enrolled, as well as their eligibility for the full range of benefits they would get for the child care.
The province’s child care plan, which is still being implemented, has not been without controversy. Parents and advocates have decried its shortcomings and the government has been challenged in court by dozens of parents who have found their child care plans unworkable due to the government’s lack of consultation, and the government has faced criticism about how much the government is paying to daycares with only one or two parents. This has prompted new concerns about how the government intends to fund the plan.
And while the government has largely been able to avoid court battles in recent years, the political standoff over the eligibility, hours, and benefits for the daycare program has led to