A few Ontario parents starting to see childcare rebates but program remains a ‘patchwork’

TORONTO – Parents in some parts of Ontario are already receiving rebates under the national $ 10-a-day childcare program, while operators elsewhere cannot yet apply to be part of the system, leaving a municipal patchwork of daycare rates across the province . .

Childcare operators in many communities have recently begun to sign in and out of the program – although some areas have not yet opened up the process – and applications are gradually pouring in.

If that pace seems rather slow, keep in mind that Ontario was the last province to sign up to the program, said Carolyn Ferns, of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

“There was kind of this message in Ontario that it takes a long time to carry it out,” said Ferns, the group’s coordinator of public policy and government relations.

“But actually, it’s because we started so late … In British Columbia and Nova Scotia, yes, it took them six months to get it off the ground, but they started last July.”

Some Ontario municipalities are much further than others.

In Greater Sudbury, seven of the region’s 17 unprofitable operators reported as well as its one profitable operator, a spokesman said. The municipality last week issued approvals for those eight child care operators and rebates began, Kelli Sheppard said.

Toronto currently has 1,042 licensed child care centers. As of Monday, 255 of the 729 nonprofit operators in the city had applied, and 31 of the 313 for-profit centers had applied.

Five profitable operators and four nonprofit operators have already withdrawn, a spokesman said.

Some municipalities, from Ottawa to St. Thomas, in southwestern Ontario, has not yet taken applications.

In Peel region, west of Toronto, the majority of operators have expressed interest in joining the program, but some complain about the process, asking them to submit an “expression of interest” before getting details.

Ontario’s rollout of the program differed in part from other provinces’ because childcare is funded by municipalities, rather than directly by the province, experts say.

“One of the challenges, I think, with Ontario’s role is that so much of this has been delegated to the municipality,” says Adrienne Davidson, an assistant professor of political science at McMaster University with expertise in child care policy.

“Rather than having a coordinated, centralized system or a coordinated message about what a deal looks like for every provider across the province, it’s a bit of a patchwork quarrel.”

Andrea Hannen, executive director of the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario, said it seems at an early stage whether municipalities want to negotiate agreements centrally. Both for-profit and non-for-profit members have concerns, she said.

“Child care licensees will have much more confidence in the process if they are presented with a standard daily allowance and a standard contract,” she said.

“It would seem that if a center joins the $ 10-a-day program, it is actually municipal bureaucrats who will decide when the center will be able to replace toys, how much rent they may pay …. There is an awful lot of micromanagement of budgets. “

Some for-profit operators and organizations they represent were outspoken about their concerns. This has caused some setbacks in favor of a non-profit and public childcare system.

But Kim Yeaman, who runs a lucrative child care center in Innisfil, Ont., Said her concerns are shared by many private operators, such as being able to pay the mortgage.

“People need to know that we are absolutely desperate to provide this for parents,” she said. “But we can not do that and not pay our bills.”

She also does not want to sign up for one year and then has to retire for the next. Despite her concerns, Yeaman said she tends to apply, in part because her Simcoe County municipality seems to be trying hard to allay those fears.

In determining a center’s “base fees” on which the rebates should be calculated, the country will include anything that was part of the program when Ontario signed the child care agreement, the municipality told operators. This includes features such as music classes, yoga and second language tuition, as long as parents do not pay extra for it.

“The ($ 10-per-day) program is not intended to force programs to ‘look the same,'” the country wrote in its program guidelines. “The uniqueness of the licensees in Simcoe County is appreciated.”

Parents will receive an initial 25 percent discount after signing up for their center, followed by another reduction at the end of the year to cut fees by an average of half. Fees will be reduced in subsequent years to reach an average of $ 10 per day by 2025.

In the first year, operators will be able to cover expenses that are not eligible through the program, such as mortgage and property tax payments, with their remaining parental fees, the country noted. But that has raised operators’ concerns about those costs with the provincial government for future years.

Ontario recognizes the valuable role that profitable operators play and will work to remove any roadblocks that come to light, the government says.

Education Minister Grace Lee, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said the agreement “protects parental choice.”

“We have met with many profitable operators and fought for them every step of the way, and will continue to plead for them with the federal and municipal governments so that all parents can benefit from these savings,” she wrote in a statement.

Sharon Siriboe, the director of the Ontario Association of Independent Child Care Centers and who runs a child care center in the Peel region, said operators want more time after the Sept. 1 deadline to decide if they should be part of the program.

“I hope … there is some way they can actually extend this deadline and give suppliers the chance to really ask the right questions,” she said. “Then we can move forward to make an informed decision.”

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