Ontario’s 2021 Budget was released on March 24 – while we aren’t surprised that Doug Ford has once again profoundly disrespected parents and educators, we’re disappointed. And given that we’ve shouldered a huge burden during this crisis, we’re angry.
What did we hope for in a budget during a pandemic? We hoped for reduced ratios, pandemic pay for educators, and investment in the system to show that this government recognizes that child care *is* essential.
But here’s what we got: no new funding, implementation of a $49 million cut (ending a cost-sharing agreement with cities for administration costs) and the re-announcement of “new” child care spaces (first announced in 2019, this is old news … the question is really why these spaces don’t exist yet).
And a tax credit for families.
We have families, so we know that every penny counts and every expense is considered. But here’s the thing: those tax credits make no difference to the educators who are paid a pittance. Tax breaks maintain the tug of war between child care fees and low educator wages. When fees go up, only some families can afford the upfront cost of child care. When fees don’t go up, educator wages are stuck, and the median hourly wage of educators in Ontario is at $16.91 – well below the cost of living in the majority of cities in this province.
Tax credits will not save child care centres that are struggling. Indeed, the tax credit model of indirectly funding child care is one of the most inefficient ways to build a real child care system, subsidizing for-profit child care while doing nothing to keep fees low. In 2020 child care struggled with low enrollment, complicated and changing expectations around controlling the spread of infections, and child care workers leaving the field due to illness and burnout while their workloads tripled. Programs are shrinking and closing because of this piecemeal approach – Doug Ford needed to come up with a plan, and he missed that opportunity. Parents, child care staff, and our communities can’t wait any longer for universal child care.
In 2021, families will go looking for a space, and they will find the same long waitlists and high fees. Tax credits won’t help if families can’t find a spot. This government is attacking high-quality child care through this Budget, and has failed millions of Ontarians in the process.
We need a universal, high quality, publicly-funded child care system, and it won’t be built with tax credits. Doug Ford can’t just pass the buck to the federal government while sitting on his hands – he has the power to fix our broken system, and he decided not to.