The Honourable Indira Naidoo-Harris, Associate Minister of Education: Statement to the Legislative Assembly
Child Care Modernization: Ontario’s Commitments And Priorities
Queen's Park, Toronto
Check Against Delivery
Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to rise in the House today, to speak about our government's plan to modernize Ontario's child care and early years system.
I'm proud because I'm standing here as the Associate Minister of Education, for the Early Years and Child Care.
I'm proud because - while I've only served in this role for a short time - our government has shown how deeply it cares about Ontario's children and families.
I know this first hand.
That's because, Mr. Speaker, I'm not just standing here as a member of this Provincial Parliament.
I'm here today as a mother of two children...
...As someone with a family.
...As an Ontarian who knows about the challenges of raising children in our modern world.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker - and everyone with children in this House today can tell you the same thing - one of the best jobs in the world is being a parent.
Simply put, there is no greater joy.
You see them grow.
You see them learn.
And you see them reach those important milestones along the way.
As a mother, I know this feeling well.
The love you have for them is unconditional.
And it means you always - and I stress always - want the best for your children.
For working families, this also means the best possible child care you can find for your son or daughter.
Ideally, that also means care that is affordable, easy to access, and high quality.
Every child deserves the best possible start in life and it's our responsibility to make sure Ontario families have the right supports so children can grow and learn in a healthy environment.
Mr. Speaker, this is why our government is moving forward with a historic commitment related to child care.
Within 5 years, we will create 100,000 new licensed child care spaces across this great province.
We will begin creating these spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers next year, in 2017.
This will help meet the demands of a growing and changing province.
And it will help more working families in Ontario access quality, affordable care.
Mr. Speaker, we made this historic commitment in the recent 2016 Speech From The Throne - the government's 'Balanced Plan to Build Ontario Up For Everyone'.
Right now, approximately 20 per cent of 0 to 4 year olds in Ontario are in licensed child care.
But it's estimated that demand is much higher.
This major transformation will double capacity for this age group...providing access to 40 per cent of Ontario children under the age of 4.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you - across Ontario, we've been hearing from parents, caregivers and families, and various child care and early years partners in the sector.
And they have spoken loud and clear.
There simply aren't enough licensed child care spaces for the parents, families, and children who need them.
That is why we are investing in our children's future - and the future of Ontario - to make this all possible.
Mr. Speaker, I can also tell you that our historic commitment to create 100,000 new spaces will result in school-based, community-based and home-based child care expansion across the province.
Increasing the number of new spaces in schools will take place through new construction, as well as retrofitting existing excess space.
By working closely with municipalities, we will also support increased spaces in community and workplace settings.
This will involve a mix of leased, new, and retrofitted spaces.
In addition, we will be aiming to increase access to home based care.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to point out that this historic investment will help build on our ongoing work with the federal government, parents and partners.
It will also help us to continue building a child care and early years system focused on quality, affordability, accessibility, parent choice, and flexibility.
As we undergo this transformation, we will consult with our partners to ensure planning meets the needs of local communities.
As the Associate Minister of Education, I will be leading consultations on this expansion over the fall and early winter.
We will consult with parents, communities, stakeholders, and everyone who makes high quality child care possible in this province.
These consultations are very important, since they will inform the government's five-year commitment and the broader policy framework that will make it a reality.
Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, this major, historic commitment is about helping parents, families and children.
And building a stronger Ontario.
But Mr. Speaker, I can also tell you that our plan to create 100,000 new child care spaces is just a part of Ontario's ongoing child care story.
Our government has been very busy modernizing our child care and early years system.
Since 2003, our government has helped to support the creation of nearly 351,000 licensed child care spaces.
That's an increase of 87 per cent over that time period.
In just the past three years alone, the government has helped to create 56,000 new licensed child care spaces in Ontario.
This is because we are committed to funding Ontario's child care system so it can continue to meet growing demand.
We must, and we will, continue to build a system that helps our children thrive and gives parents the supports they need.
In April 2015, the province announced $120 million in new funding - dedicated to building safe, high-quality, licensed child care spaces in schools across the province.
So far, $113 million has been allocated, resulting in almost 3,800 new licensed child care spaces coming soon to communities across Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, regarding overall funding - since 2003, we have doubled child care funding to more than $1 billion annually.
That's a staggering investment in the future of our children and our province.
In addition, Ontario is investing $269 million over three years to support a wage increase for registered early childhood educators and other child care professionals in licensed child care settings.
The first such increase took place in January 2015.
Again, Mr. Speaker, we are investing in our system by investing in the talented and dedicated people who make it great.
Not only are we making investments in our system, we are also eliminating undue hardships for parents.
Mr. Speaker, as of September 1 of this year, our government ended a practice that many parents said was unfair.
I'm referring to charging parents fees to be on waiting lists for licensed child care centres and home child care agencies.
Parents made their voices clear on this issue.
We listened to Ontario's families and banned these unjustified fees.
We also introduced regulatory changes which require licensed child care providers to develop a public wait list policy that clearly explains how children on a wait list are offered admission.
Mr. Speaker, this is another example of how our government is listening to and helping parents with young children.
But, Mr. Speaker, we aren't just making investments and saving parents money...
...We are also modernizing our child care and early years system with good policy and a new legislative framework.
Recently, we filed Phase Two regulations under the Child Care and Early Years Act - the ground-breaking legislation that took effect on August 31st, 2015.
This legislation replaced the outdated Day Nurseries Act...
...It strengthened oversight in the child care sector...
And it ensures families have increased access to safe and high quality care.
Some of the Phase Two regulations have already taken effect, while others will come into force next year and beyond.
One key regulatory change, that will take effect on September 1, 2017, relates to the expansion of before-and-after-school care.
This requirement will be extended to children from 6 to 12 years-old...where there is sufficient demand from parents and families.
Sometimes parents need to leave for work early in the morning, and many cannot make it on time to pick up their kids when the school bell rings at the end of the day.
This is an important step in increasing access for this much needed care.
Mr. Speaker, as we look ahead, we're confident in our bold plan for Ontario's child care and early years system.
We need a system that helps our children thrive and gives parents the support they need.
To continue our good work, we envision a three-year modernization plan going forward.
Working with our partners in the Child Care sector, this will involve a shift from legislative change to a future policy framework with four key pillars.
The four pillars are:
- Parent Choice and Flexibility
- Affordability, and...
Another key priority for us is supporting First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children in Ontario.
This year alone, the ministry is providing $27.7 million in child care funding to 77 First Nations across Ontario.
Ontario recognizes the value of culturally appropriate early years and child care programs in First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities.
As announced on May 30th, we are also working with Indigenous partners to increase the number of licensed child care spaces and culturally relevant programming off-reserve.
We are also discussing with First Nations partners how to best expand child and family programs on-reserve.
This is one of many steps on Ontario's journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Mr. Speaker, one of our government's initiatives which excites me the most is the creation of Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres.
We are moving forward on our commitment to create these centres by integrating existing child and family programs, and transforming Early Years supports to better serve Ontario families and communities.
These new hubs will offer parents and children easy access to a suite of high-quality core programs.
Along with local services tailored to the specific needs of those communities.
These centres will build on the successful work already taking place in many communities across Ontario.
As we undergo this transformation, we will collaborate with our partners to ensure we meet the needs of local communities and maximize support for parents and our youngest learners no matter where they live.
Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that our government's investments and child care priorities aren't just about making things better today.
That's because we are investing in the future.
We're building on the great work we've been doing in a child's earliest years....
...And ensuring that a student's success continues through their entire career in school.
We see this as a full continuum of learning...
...A seamless progression.
Where students can grow, develop, and blossom into engaged and productive citizens.
Mr. Speaker, this is why Ontario has one of the best child care, early years, and education systems in the world.
It is because we are committed to the success and well-being of each and every child and student.
These ideals are also enshrined in our Renewed Vision for Education: Achieving Excellence, which has four key goals:
- Achieving Excellence
- Ensuring Equity
- Promoting Well-being
- Enhancing Public Confidence.
Our vision will ensure Ontario's students develop into confident, capable and caring citizens.
Mr. Speaker, I can confidently say Ontario is already a leader in child care and early years education.
We are internationally recognized as having one of the best child care and early years systems in the world.
That's why I want to end by thanking the people that make it all possible.
Mr. Speaker, I would like everyone in this House to recognize the people who devote themselves to caring for our youngest Ontarians every day.
These early years professionals are passionate and dedicated.
And they are giving our children a valuable head start.
I don't just say this as the Associate Minister of Education.
I say this as a mother.
I've personally seen the great work of Ontario's child care and early years professionals.
Mr. Speaker, these are the people that care for our youngest and most precious Ontarians.
And they do it because they want to make a difference in people's lives.
Mr. Speaker, I'm confident in saying they really are making a big difference.
And they are giving Ontario's children the best possible start in life.
Therefore, I urge everyone in this House today to rise in support of our dedicated child care and early years professionals.