Pressure is mounting on the Ontario government to lay out its plan for working with the federal government on childcare funding.
Back in April, the federal government unveiled its 2021 budget, which includes $30 billion toward cutting
childcare costs in half in the next 18 months and down to $10 per day per child within five years — all in
partnership with provincial and territorial governments.
Two weeks ago, British Columbia signed the first childcare funding agreement with the federal government. B.C. will work with the federal government to cut fees in half by the end of 2022 and reach an average of $10-per-day childcare in regulated spaces for children under six before 2027, creating 30,000 new spaces over the next five years.
Since then, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have signed similar agreements.
Parents, educators, and employers are anxiously waiting to hear what Ontario plans to do. Ontario has
potentially the most to gain from a strong partnership with the federal government, with many Ontario cities ranking at the top for most expensive places in Canada for childcare.
It’s not just needed from a social perspective — it’s a key business issue. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is on the record with multiple resolutions advocating for more accessible childcare services.
It’s no secret that our business community is facing critical workforce shortages
in some sectors. It’s a complicated issue with a multitude of factors including workplace safety,
opportunities to retrain, wages, and government supports.
Though we’ve made progress in the form of modernizing traditional gendered parental roles with men taking on a larger share of child rearing, COVID-19 created a
situation where many families had to pick one parent to work and the other to stay home with the kids as schools and daycares closed. Some households found ways to try and manage both parents’ careers while taking care of and teaching their child, whether it meant burning the candle at both ends or getting grandparents involved. But the numbers show that women have taken on the largest share of the childcare burden.
Back in March, RBC published a report that nearly 100,000 women had left the
workforce altogether. That was before we hit our next round of lockdowns and school closures as we rode the third wave.
Even the childcare centres themselves are struggling to maintain the staffing levels they require. They’ve gone through the ups and downs of closing, reopening and restricted capacity, creating a high level of anxiety and
uncertainty for workers. Much of their workforce is comprised of women who are trying to balance their own childcare needs.
Workers debating whether it’s worth going back to lower paying jobs will have more financial incentive if a large part of their pay isn’t going straight to childcare,
providing a boost both for families and for businesses struggling to hire a new workforce.
Childcare costs and
availability were a big issue before this pandemic. Now, it’s a critical part of our economic recovery. While workforce issues aren’t going away overnight, making it accessible and affordable to pay for childcare will go a long way.