June 16th, 2020
June 16th, 2020
QUEEN'S PARK - The Ontario NDP critic for Early Learning and Childcare Doly Begum says that because the Ford government has failed to support child care centres in weathering COVID-19 and enabling a safe reopening, the sector faces deficits, slashed wages for early childhood educators (ECEs) and potential staff lay-offs.
NDP MPPs have heard from child care operators who say that throughout the pandemic, the Ford government and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have neither communicated critical changes to rules around funding to ensure the continued payment of staff, nor consulted with centres on a safe reopening strategy, nor provided desperately needed funding to help centres adjust to vital new safety requirements.
“Child care is critical to reopening the economy and ensuring that parents – and women, especially – can reenter the workforce,” Begum said. “The Ford government’s neglect of child care operators and the hardworking ECEs who look after our children is forcing centres to consider lay-offs, reductions to ECE wages and possible closures.”
Jonathan Evans, a registered ECE at London Bridge Child Care, an operator that runs 16 centres in and around London, said he and his colleagues have been told their wages will have to be reduced by 25 per cent.
“Without adequate funding, it is very difficult to ensure the safe and effective reopening of Ontario child care,” Evans said. “The lack of funding is preventing child care centres from paying their staff, and from purchasing materials and equipment to require safety. Give us what we need to take care of Ontario families.”
On Monday, MPPs Peggy Sattler (London West) and Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) met virtually with London Licensed Child Care Network, and were told that some operators may be forced to consider staff lay-offs, cancelling infant programs or reducing ECE wages, while others are holding off on reopening altogether until they can get clarity on how badly they are in debt.
Child care centres in Ontario were recently informed that the Ford government had changed the rules allowing operators to use provincial grants to pay their staff the remaining 25 per cent not covered by the federal government’s pandemic wage subsidy. On May 26, child care centres were told they would have to pay the province back the wage top-up funds retroactively, leaving many child care operators tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
“The province’s retroactive funding decision has put child care organizations in a deficit position that will impact our ongoing sustainability – preventing our company from paying our staff and from purchasing materials, toys and equipment to ensure safety,” Evans said. “Despite the Ford government’s announcement of a ‘sustainability plan’ for child care, we have not received concrete funding agreements outlining how this will work.”
“The Ford government needs to stop paying lip service to the importance of child care centres and start actually supporting centres so that they can keep their staff and avoid massive debts,” Begum stressed. “A safe reopening of Ontario will not be possible without it.”