Oakville council views child-care agreement as part of post-pandemic ‘economic recovery’

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Published November 16, 2021 at 8:15 pm

Town councillors in Oakville are calling on the senior levels of government to work out an agreement on affordable child care, like almost every province in Canada has done in the last six months.

On Monday, Oakville Council voted unanimously in favour of Ward 7 Coun. Pavar Parmar’s motion, “which encourages the federal government and Ontario government to reach an equitable childcare agreement that acknowledges the provincial investment in full-day kindergarten.” The resolution was adopted the same day that Alberta became the eighth province to sign on to the federal Liberals’ National Childcare Strategy. Ontario and New Brunswick are the only provinces holding out.

Mayor Rob Burton said in his weekly email newsletter that he and Coun. Sean O’Meara will bring a similar motion to a Halton Regional Council meeting.

Elected leaders in some Ontario municipalities, including Hamilton, are wondering whether they would be able to access the $30-billion, five-year program directly.

Parmar’s motion noted right off the hop that “childcare spaces in Oakville and across Ontario have decreased as a result of the (COVID-19) pandemic, and the lack of childcare spaces is a barrier to our economic recovery.” It also states that a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report found that the median cost for an infant in full-day daycare in the Greater Toronto Area suburbs was $17,400 to $19,300 per year. The national plan, Parmar wrote, would save parents in Oakville $14,843 annually by 2026.

“The pandemic has shown us how essential affordable child care is to our communities,” Parmer said during discussion at Monday’s council meeting. “It also showed us a reality that when we do not have accessible and affordable child care available, women drop out of the labour force.

“So many of us have heard from others that the majority if not all of their paycheques goes to daycare. The federal government’s national child care plan would result in substantial savings for our residents as early as 2022 and this motion calls on our governments to work together to create a plan that will drive economic recovery and support working parents.”

Ward 3 Coun. Janet Haslett-Theall also stated that businesses and the public sector are losing talented people, usually mothers, because of the cost of child care.

“In my career as an HR (human resources) professional I’ve witnessed the incredible financial and emotional stress that families experience all over getting quality affordable day care,” Haslett-Theall said. “And while businesses have advanced in their practices to be more flexible, including governments, they continue to experience the loss of just an incredible number of talented team members and in most instances, it’s women.”

Minister of Families Karina Gould, an Oakville MP, is handling the National Childcare Strategy. Gould said this week that Ontario had not submitted a detailed plan of how it would spend the federal funds. The program was announced in the federal budget on April 19.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday that the Progressive Conservative provincial government is is looking for more money than is currently on offer, and wants an agreement with “minimal strings attached,” as well as an arrangement that will be “ongoing.”

“What’s going to happen after five years? They’re going to wash their hands and walk away and we’re stuck with the funding? No, we need a good deal,” Ford told The Canadian Press.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce wants a deal that recognizes the $3.6 billion the province spends annually on full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-old children. That might explain why Oakville Council’s motion includes the clause about “acknowledging” that the provinces funds full-day kindergarten.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario accused the Ford government on Tuesday of not “(understanding) the difference between kindergarten and child care,” noting that kindergarten is part of the education system. A statement from ETFO president Karen Brown said the childcare funding might used “to displace current funding for public education.”

Oakville Council’s resolution will be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gould, Ford, Lecce, and area MPs and MPPs. It will also be sent to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Ontario’s Big City Mayors, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and the Advancement of Women Halton, among others.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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