Ontario weakened its $10-a-day child care funding rules. Now the federal government is demanding answers. Why was the province so keen to give parents more access to child care?
More than 400,000 children in Ontario live in low-income families and face the risk of being shut out of child care when their parents fall into financial hardship. That’s one reason why the province is giving parents more flexibility when they use their child care benefit to cover the cost of their child’s childcare.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who campaigned in 2006 to expand the province’s child care and child care benefit programs from the current $2-a-day amount to $10 a day, won’t say why. That’s because the federal government is now demanding answers from her government after months of media questioning.
The federal government wants to know why the province made the decision to slash the number of child care spots in two years from the current 10,000 to 5,000. Why did the province choose to double the number of families in financial hardship in that time frame?
The Ontario government also wants to know why the province kept the eligibility rules for the child care benefit the same when the federal government changed theirs. Was there a strategy to not give parents more flexibility by imposing stricter eligibility and standards? Was there a strategy to ensure parents with more income were not penalized by the government?
The federal government made changes to its child care benefit eligibility rules as a result of the 2011-12 government-initiated review of the program, and it expects a response on why the province made its changes.
“We will ask the government for a copy of the government’s assessment of its policy decisions in the light of what’s available today (March 17),” said the federal finance minister, Jim Flaherty.
“We will want to know why the province of Ontario made the decision to double (the number of families in financial hardship), with the intention of ensuring even more low-income families received child care assistance and the results of the review did not clearly support this effort.”
As well, the federal government is asking the province for answers to several other questions, including how the province got its estimate