June 1st, 2020

Ford must not penalize London child care centres for province's own error: NDP

LONDON — NDP MPPs for London Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe), Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) and Peggy Sattler (London West) said the Ford government must not penalize the city's licensed, non-profit child care operators for a recent change the province made to rules governing the centres' pay structure mid-pandemic.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, London's network of licensed child care centres applied for the federal government's wage subsidy program, so that they could retain their highly skilled ECEs. The centres paid staff the remaining 25 per cent of wages not covered by the federal government using the General Operating Grant and Wage Enhancement Grant that Ontario provides to centres in their network.

Two weeks ago, the province changed the rules and informed the centres that neither grant could be used to pay staff wages while the centres were closed during the COVID-19 emergency. On May 26, the province confirmed that the centres would have to pay back the wage top-up funds retroactively to March 15. These centres, and the volunteer non-profit boards that govern them, are now facing tens of thousands of dollars in debt, compounding the financial hardship they were experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the loss of parent fees.

"Child care centres and the staff they employ will be essential to keeping our children safe and healthy, and ensuring that, as more businesses reopen, parents with young kids will be able to return to work," Kernaghan said.

"Early childhood educators are highly skilled professionals, predominantly women, whose work is consistently undervalued by the province," Sattler said. "ECEs have been connecting with children and families throughout the pandemic, but the province has decided that their work does not deserve to be compensated. The closure of any of these centres would reduce options for London parents - without access to licensed spaces, returning workers will face the impossible choice of either giving up their job or cobbling together a patchwork of care arrangements with family or neighbours.”

"Child care centres were simply following the rules as they understood them, but are now being unfairly penalized by the Ford government for the province's own failure to provide the correct information," Armstrong said."Ford must reverse this decision and provide London's licensed non-profit child care centres with the financial support they need to avoid ruin or closure."

Kernaghan stressed, "The hardworking professionals who protect our youngest children deserve nothing less."