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FORUM: Hold Conservative MPPs to account (Sept. 2019)

October 8th, 2019 · No Comments

Inequitable day care costs thrust onto city

By Mike Layton

Throughout my time at City Hall I have worked hard to increase the quality of life for Toronto residents and to make living here more affordable. This year, the Ford government has been going out of its way to reduce quality of life and make it more unaffordable to live in Toronto, through their many service cuts and downloading.

They need to explain why they are allowing for the destabilization of our childcare system.

The cuts which will have the greatest impact on families in our ward will be to childcare provisions, to which the Conservatives have confirmed significant cuts are coming in 2020. These will come in the form of eliminating subsidies to low-income families, subsequently making costs higher for all parents, and cancelling plans for thousands of new childcare spaces. 

Toronto is already one of the most expensive cities to live in in Canada. As it is, there aren’t enough affordable spots for the families that need them, but Ford has put a plan in motion that will raise fees for the limited spaces we already have, and will also eliminate many more. 

With their most recent announcement made this August, the province has officially backed away from funding 51 new daycare capital projects that were already planned, and that families were counting on. This means we will lose 3,049 new childcare spaces, on top of cuts to occupancy grants that have been in place since 1998 and have helped countless families afford childcare and allowed them to return to the workplace. 

What is especially troubling about these cuts is that they do not represent any savings for Ontario residents. The plan, in reality, moves the source of funding away from the provincial government, which raises most of its money through income taxes, and pushes it onto municipal governments, which raise most of their money through property taxes. It is a move that gives the province a false sense of accomplishment. They are acting as if they have cut the deficit, when they are really just transferring the costs to a system that has less equitable resources to draw from.

After the initial announcement in May about these cuts, the City Manager shared that this situation will create additional budgetary pressures that may put other vital city services at risk. In the coming year, the city will be forced into a position of making increases to our capital budget and potentially raising property taxes simply to maintain services, while continuing to fight back against a government that refuses to prioritize vital services.

Childcare advocates, parents, and local politicians are working together to raise awareness of the cuts and to pressure the province to stop them. This pressure led to a delay in implementation, and continued advocacy will make an impact again.

I put forward two motions at the July City Council meeting on Occupancy Agreements and Capital Funding for Childcare, directing council to tell the province to restore funding to support all future provincially-funded childcare projects. This included funding for the 51 daycare capital projects that are now at risk of not proceeding, and proposed finding a way to fund these programs if provincial funding is not restored. 

On a council where most items are divisive, these motions both carried unanimously. I am proud to be able to bring all sides of this debate together to improve quality of life for our residents. 

As a parent and ardent childcare advocate, I know that these cuts are forcing families to make tough choices in wards across the city. They are harmful and fiscally irresponsible.

I want to stress that we cannot let Toronto Conservative MPPs off the hook — they need to explain why they are allowing for the destabilization of our childcare system, and why they are supporting a future that will push young families out of our city. I will continue to work to find a way to make childcare more affordable for the residents of Toronto, and encourage you to join me.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11 University—Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion