Ontario’s Budget Cuts Threaten Success of $10-a-day Program

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The Ontario Municipal Social Services Association has raised the concerns of Service System managers (SSMs) in a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce regarding an $85.5-million budget cut for municipal child-care administration, stating it jeopardizes the success of the $10-a-day program. They argue that increased responsibilities under the national program, which Ontario joined in 2022, have already strained municipal child-care administrators and cutting their funding is untimely.

President Henry Wall and Executive Director Doug Ball emphasized in a letter to the minister that reduced administrative funding would lead to service delays and additional costs for municipalities, ultimately risking the program’s successful implementation and negatively affecting children and families.

Ontario uniquely mandates municipalities to play a central role in delivering child care, with municipal system managers responsible for planning, funding, and administering services.  The Ontario government, which had initially shifted 50% of child-care system administration costs to municipalities in 2019, provided $220 million in transitional funding over several years, but this support is now ending, resulting in the $85.5 million cut. Most of the $2.1 billion funding for the $10-a-day program is allocated to fee reductions and workforce compensation, with a smaller portion dedicated to administration, in fact, as the letter points out, the CWELCC agreement allows for 10% of funding for administration, but the province has decided to lower this to 5%. At the same time as cutting funding for administration, the CWELCC program has added to municipal staff’s workload with increased licensing, monitoring, and regulatory tasks.

The letter from OMSSA underscores the crucial role of strong municipal service managers in supporting child-care operators through the program’s transitional phase and holding them accountable for agreed-upon targets. They stress the need to focus on the real work required in communities and for families, rather than being bogged down by politics.

According to an article by CTV news, a spokesperson for Minister Lecce reiterated the government’s focus on reducing fees and increasing access to child-care spaces for working parents, emphasizing the need for municipalities to realign their systems to ensure affordable child care delivery. Meanwhile, child-care operators across Ontario are warning of potential program withdrawals due to insufficient funding levels, exacerbated by inflation. In response, the federal government urged provinces and territories to make the program work, emphasizing that they were fully aware of the commitments when signing on to the initiative.

Read the full letter from the OMSSA for more information.