Ontario Liberals promise billions to universal childcare if elected

Kingston and the Islands Provincial Liberal Candidate, Ted Hsu, introduces the Liberal Leader, Stephen Del Duca, during a press conference on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Photo still from YouTube.

The Ontario Liberal Party held an online press conference today to introduce their ‘Care For Every Child’ plan, which includes $10-a-day childcare, increased childcare spaces, an increased number of Early Childhood Educators, and an enhanced parental leave program for the province.

Over Zoom, Ontario Liberal Leader Stephen Del Duca was introduced by Kingston and the Islands Candidate for MPP, Ted Hsu, to make the announcement.

Hsu started things off by  explaining that, “Increasing women’s workforce participation has the potential to boost Ontario’s economy by about $7 billion a year. Every dollar invested in childcare returns $2.50 to the economy. This is something that economists have studied.”

He continued, “So it’s good for families, it’s good for our economy, and it’s good for Ontario. Accessible, affordable childcare has this economic multiplier effect and that means a stronger economy for everyone.”

“As a result of the pandemic, women have been forced out of their jobs in record numbers,” Del Duca added. “Our Ontario Liberal plan will help create an economic recovery that’s led by women, and especially mothers, to address the ‘she-cession.’”

Del Ducal praised Hsu highly, noting, “Everybody in the area across, not only Kingston, but across Eastern Ontario, knows that throughout his career, both as a federal MP, and as someone who has been a key member of the community, that Ted Hsu has always stood up for the hard working families that he’s been proud to represent and I will tell you, since becoming an Ontario Liberal Party candidate, Ted has had the opportunity to speak with me on a number of occasions about the issues that I know are so important to the hard working families of Kingston and the Islands.”

Del Duca then described a five point plan that he said, “will make life more affordable for hard-working families. It means parents in Kingston will save 80 per cent on their childcare costs. It would also mean 1,200 new childcare spaces for families in Kingston.”

First, he said, “Within 100 days of taking office, so by the start of the 2022 school year, Ontario Liberals will deliver a massive discount to the moms and dads who are accessing what’s known as ‘before and after school care’ for their kids.”

“So, depending on where you are in the province today, before and after school care costs on average between $20 and $22 per child, per day,” he explained further. “Again, within those first 100 days, we’re going to knock about 50 per cent off that cost, bringing it down to $10 per day, per child. What that’s going to mean for most families in this province who need that care and access it is a savings of about $2,300 per child, per year.”

Provincial Liberal Leader, Stephen Del Duca explains the new childcare plan proposal via Zoom. Photo still from YouTube

As a result he said, “We will need literally thousands of new, properly trained early childhood educators thousands of them. So, how are we going to do that?”

This brought him to the second point of the plan: ”Upon taking office, we will start urgently to recruit more women and men into that profession into that vocation, and we’re going to do that by providing free college tuition for the early childhood educator (ECE) program.”

The plan, he said, would address not just the recruitment of training ECEs, but also focus on retaining the new recruits by ensuring they are paid on par with ECEs employed in the full day kindergarten programs at Ontario’s public schools, “So that their compensation truly is something that they can live on, that they can support themselves and their families.”

“Number three,” said Del Duca, “Within two and a half years of taking office, by the end of 2024, every single child in Ontario — regardless of whether that child is an infant, or is a what’s known as a toddler, or what’s known as a preschooler — will have access to universal licensed $10 per day childcare.  We’re going to be doing that by leveraging the significant federal investment that was introduced in the federal government’s most recent budget announcement. We anticipate that the province of Ontario, given our population, is entitled to just over $3 billion in federal funding per year.”

What about families who choose not to access the licensed child care programs, for example where one parent stays home, or some other arrangement is in place?  Del Duca said, “I want them to understand that Ontario Liberals have got their back, too. And that’s why the existing childcare tax credit in the province of Ontario under our plan will not only be kept in place, it’s going to be enhanced by up to 50 per cent.”

“So,” he continued, “we’re going to provide more financial support for those families who already access that tax credit. So that they can continue to access it according to the existing criteria, except that we’re going to add financial support to the tune of 50 per cent more support for those families. I want those families to know if Ontario Liberals respect their choice, we want to build in that option for them and we’re on their side.”

The last aspect of the plan to “care for every child” addressed not early education, but parental leave.

Del Duca explained, “Today in Ontario, there’s an existing 18 month parental leave program. But here’s how that program works: if a mom or dad chooses to stay at home and help raise their child in those first 12 to 18 months of that child being alive, the existing program through employment insurance, provides that mom or dad financial support for those first 12 months.”

However, he pointed out, “If the mom or dad chooses to stay off for an additional six months, which they’re entitled to do, their financial benefit is stretched over the full 18 months. So, beyond 12 months they effectively see a reduction in what they’re receiving.”

“I don’t think that’s good enough,” he continued, “I think moms and dads who choose to stay off for the full 18 months should have the financial support that keeps them whole for the entirety of the time that they’re off looking after their kids. That’s why the Ontario Liberal plan, ‘Care for Every Child,’ would provide a top up for those remaining six months, so moms and dads staying home for the full 18 months don’t see a loss in terms of the financial support that they have.”

Can Ontario afford a major program like this, given the deficits built up during the pandemic? Del Duca said, “In the most recent federal budget the Government of Canada announced that provinces like Ontario that are prepared to partner and step forward, would be able to access… for the province of Ontario, given our population, about $3.2 billion annually from the federal government to deliver on a program like this.”

He then pointed out, “Here’s the problem. Doug Ford has already said his government’s… not interested in delivering on this kind of child care, a child care plan or program for Ontario. What that, in effect, will mean is that they’re going to leave $3.2 billion on the table, that they will not be able to access that federal funding that’s already been established and put in place. And, to me, that makes no sense.”

Del Duca said ‘Care for Every Child’ includes a provincial component, a top up of about a billion dollars over and above the federal contribution of $3.2 billion.

More funding for the plan will come from the cancellation of the Conservative-proposed plan to build a new highway north of Toronto, Del Duca said.

“You might be familiar that about a month or two ago, I announced that, if elected, over our first five years in government, we would invest an additional $8 billion by cancelling the reckless ‘Highway 413,’ as it’s known,” he said. “We would take that money Doug Ford wants to invest in a highway for the GTA, and instead invest in building out and repairing schools right across Ontario, including in Kingston.”

More details about Care For Every Child can be found by visiting https://ontarioliberal.ca/care-for-every-child-in-ontario/ 

Watch the press conference here: https://youtu.be/UGFPi36upYc

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