Child care is hot political issue in Ontario and across Canada, and Canada is the only developed country where millions of mothers cannot afford to leave work to care for their children. Canada has the lowest child care support rate among the G7, and the only one that is not eligible for universal health care.
In Ottawa, Canada’s capital, activists from large advocacy groups like the British Columbia-based First Nations Child Care Association, the non-profit Gilda’s Club Canada, and the Canadian Women’s Foundation took part in an Oct. 18 demonstration to demand action.
The Dufferin-Peel Child and Family Services Board, one of the largest such boards in Ontario, found child care is the No. 1 concern for families there. Out of one thousand interviews with parents, nearly half reported problems with access to child care, the same proportion as in the national Dufferin-Peel findings. Last April, First Nations Community Service Centres (FNCSCs) in Toronto were threatened with closure if they failed to abandon non-profit status. A spokesman for FNCSCs told FNR that the provincial Liberal government “is not listening to local parents.”
The grassroots Child Care Action Network in Ottawa has been organizing nightly rallies in the winter and summer. Most recently they held a Nuit Blanche event. Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford would like to keep a promise of cutting child care costs, and Ottawa is accusing the provincial Liberal government of trying to hobble Ottawa’s proposed New Democrats child care program. The Liberal government is demanding that Ottawa negotiate child care standards.
Canada’s Progressive Conservative government says it can’t be held accountable for child care until it’s in office, but the Ontario Liberals say Ford’s plan can’t kick in until at least the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, the NDP says it can only be implemented if the federal government is prepared to match its proposed child care investment.
Most Canadians want all provinces to set up their own child care programs, regardless of which party is in power. A new survey by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, found 62 percent of Canadians believe local and provincial policies should complement, not compete with, federal child care policy.