Child care will play a key role in Ontario’s economic and social recovery from COVID-19 in several respects:
- maintaining existing child-care spots allows parents to return to work;
- maintaining employment in the child-care sector, particularly in northern and rural community where child-care systems will help attract and retain a skilled workforce to create economic growth; and,
- will reduce poverty long-term by supporting early childhood development and improved educational outcomes.
AMO will continue to work with the provincial government to ensure child care and early years programming in Ontario is prioritized during the COVID-19 recovery phase and into the future.
Adequate funding is essential to stabilizing the sector, maintaining the current number of spaces, and expanding spaces in the future. The provincial government is phasing in reduced cost-sharing arrangements for administrative expenses, which may lead to some reduced child-care services. The Ministry of Education is providing funding to mitigate the impact in 2021. However, it is anticipated that the changes will be fully implemented in January 2022, with no commitments for further mitigation funding. AMO has advocated to reverse the changes, or at least to mitigate the impact while the pandemic is ongoing.
There is the prospect on the horizon of more funding for child care and early years programming. In the 2021 budget, the federal government committed to investing up to $27.2 billion over the next five years to build a national child-care system. Some provinces have already signed agreements with the federal government. AMO welcomes this federal commitment and looks forward to working with the provincial government to identify Ontario’s municipal and community priorities for implementation in Ontario.
Municipalities have been crucial partners in Ontario’s COVID-19 response, including in child care. In Ontario, the costs of child-care programs are shared by the provincial and municipal governments. Municipal governments and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs) play a significant role in funding, planning, managing, and in some cases, directly delivering child-care programs.
Mandatory closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a big impact on child care and early learning services. Many centres were closed for periods during the pandemic, and the sector has faced challenges with different levels of restrictions and safety procedures. While measures were necessary, the situation has made financial sustainability a challenge for the sector. Municipal service managers are working to stabilize the sector and have safely guided the reopening of child care with the help of provincial and federal funding.