Affordable, Accessible, Quality Child Care for More Families
Every child deserves the best start in life. And it's the government's responsibility to ensure that families have the right supports so children can grow and learn in a healthy environment.
High-quality child care is an essential start to a child's journey of education, supporting their social, emotional and cognitive development. Child care and early years programs help get our smallest learners ready for full-day kindergarten, grade one and success beyond the classroom.
We also know that quality, affordable, accessible and flexible options for child care are an important part of women's economic empowerment and can help close the gender wage gap by supporting women's participation in the labour market.
Over the past three years, the government has helped to create 56,000 new licensed child care spaces. This builds on investments since 2003 that have helped to support the increase in licensed child care spaces by 87 per cent, to a total of nearly 351,000 spaces.
And the government is still working to create more spaces by adding 4,000 new child care spaces in schools.
Right now, approximately 20 per cent of 0-4 year olds in Ontario are in licensed child care and it is estimated that demand is approximately 45 to 50 per cent.
To meet the demands of a growing and changing province, within the next five years, starting in 2017, the government will help to create another 100,000 licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, so that more working families can find quality, affordable care.
This will double the current capacity of the 0-4 age group, creating spaces for about 40 per cent of children.
Ontario will do this by providing one-time capital funding and operating dollars to support 100,000 dedicated spaces for children aged 0-4 through a mixed approach of school-based, community-based and home-based expansion. This will include a large number of new spaces created in school settings through new builds and retrofits. By working closely with municipalities, Ontario will support increased spaces in community and workplace-based settings with a mix of leased, new and retrofitted spaces. The increase in spaces will also come from working closely with licensed home child care providers to create more capacity.
This investment will help build on ongoing work with the federal government, parents and partners to develop a child care and early years system focused on quality, affordability, accessibility, parent choice and flexibility.
Ontario recently banned fees for child care wait lists to improve the accessibility of child care and make life easier for families. The change prevents licensed child care centres and home child care agencies from charging fees or requiring deposits to join child care wait lists. Ontario was the first province in Canada to ban child care wait list fees.
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.
As well, the government's work with community hubs is creating spaces for expanded child care and child and family support services that offer families high-quality early years programs, as well as local services tailored to their communities.
To demonstrate the government's commitment to continuing to improve early years and child care in Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne recently appointed Indira Naidoo-Harris as Associate Minister of Education (Early Years and Child Care). Over the coming months, Minister Naidoo-Harris will work closely with parents, early years and child care advocates, deliverers, academics, early childhood educators, employers and others to inform future work.
Minister Naidoo-Harris will also continue to work with federal, provincial and territorial partners on a pan-Canadian Early Years and Child Care Framework.
This work continues the government's modernization of the child care system, including an update to the rules governing child care, which had been in place since 1946 and had not been updated in decades. The new Child Care and Early Years Act provides for a high level of safety standards for licensed child care and provides a number of provisions to help bring unlicensed child care into the regulated sector.
The Ontario government knows how important the early years are in forming a solid foundation for a child's life. Since 2010, Ontario has provided $63.5 million annually to help fill the gap left when the previous federal government stepped away from its responsibilities to child care.
And it is why Ontario has invested $100 million per year in child and family programs and is currently in the process of transforming the system of early years supports for families — including free drop-in centres for children — with better integration and co-ordination of services.
Families, communities and the province all benefit from programs and services that promote early learning and development, support parents and caregivers and provide referrals to specialized services. Expanding quality child care service helps families in their everyday lives and builds a stronger Ontario.