How intense pressure from for-profit daycares has transformed Ontario’s rollout of $10-a-day child care — and sparked a political standoff that could define its fate.
A decade ago, this would never have happened in Ontario. Families in this province would simply pay the daily rate for child care.
But in recent years, the government has been taking away that freedom of choice. It has created a parallel market for child care, where families can only send their kids to the daycares that take government money.
“If you look at a daycare program, you are giving people the same thing that you would have paid for at an independent daycare,” says Jim Bawden, president of the Council of Canadians.
“You are paying the same for what you would have spent in a private daycare.”
One out of every four children in Ontario are enrolled in this subsidized childcare program that will soon run out of money. That’s more than four million children who will have to fend for themselves unless the government agrees to back down and scrap the program.
The standoff threatens to create a new class of Ontario children: one-daycare customers.
If the daycares get the government’s backing to keep the subsidies flowing, the parents who sign up for subsidized daycare will have to pay an additional $3 a day. Families who can afford the additional cost will be in a better position to pay for their children’s daycare. If they are not, they will likely lose their subsidy.
The parents who can’t afford the extra cost will have to look for other daycare options. If the program ends, any families who choose Ontario’s more privatized system will be on their own. And for those parents who are in that precarious position, all that daycare money is going to make it more difficult — not easier — to manage.
The controversy has played out in a series of highly charged, public meetings in which parents and child advocates have accused the government of cutting their daycare benefits at the 11th hour and then asking the daycares and parents to accept a new rate.