Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Is child care sustainable?

Is child care sustainable?

That was the question on the table at a community town hall at Topcliffe Public School in the Jane and Finch area on February 15. The event was hosted by Anthony Perruzza, Toronto City Councillor for Ward 8, and Mario Sergio, MPP for York West. Residents in attendance were treated to a spirited defence of child care in Toronto.

Jane Mercer, a representative of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, was there to warn those in attendance. Child care spaces will be cut. Facilities will be closed. The reason stems from the introduction of full-day early learning at the provincial level. This has led to the assumption that less child care spaces will be required. Upon this news Mercer was quick to jump to the defence of the provincial government and Premier Dalton McGuinty. “Full-day kindergarten was a noble intention from the provincial government to provide more opportunities for children,” she said.

Mercer submits, however; that despite such a noble intent, a ball has been dropped somewhere. She believes much of the blame lies with the federal government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mercer traces the problems with child care back to the Prime Minister’s cancelling of an agreement between the previous federal Liberal government and the provinces to create a fully funded universal child care program. She sites both the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba as jurisdictions that have successfully implemented the universal system with a cost to taxpayers of less than $20.00 per day.

It was significant that this meeting was held in York West. In a city with approximately 20,000 children on child care wait lists, residents of the Jane and Finch area are some of the most vulnerable to cuts. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of those in the community have had their care subsidized by the City. Councillor Perruzza said bluntly, “We need more money for infants and toddlers.”

Perruzza’s comments may be accurate. However, Mayor Rob Ford has made his feelings about spending more money (as long as it doesn’t concern subways) quite clear. The well has been tapped dry and the funds to provide additional subsidies simply do not exist. That said; Perruzza does always have the option to put forward a motion at Council with the hope that he can put together enough support from his colleagues to force the hand of the Mayor and Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.

Perruzza, however; would rather not have to go around the Mayor. He would like to work with the Mayor’s Child Care Task Force and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who has been appointed as Chair. With that in mind, he made a point to invite every single York West resident in need of child care to the City’s public meeting with Councillor Mammoliti on February 28 at 7:00pm at St. Jude’s Catholic School, located at 3265 Weston Road. I plan to be in attendance. I hope to see you there.

[Originally posted at]

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