NEWS

Push to stop Toronto operation of daycares criticized

07/05/2012 01:31 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT
Councillors who sit on a committee that governs daycare are criticizing Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti's recommendation to pull the City of Toronto out of the business of running child-care centres altogether.

Mammoliti, who was appointed by the mayor to chair a special task force on child care in the city, recommended Thursday that the city ask the provincial ministry of education to take over the operation of the 53 Toronto-run child care centres.

"In turn, operations and system management will be operated by the school board system in partnership with all current operators, both not-for-profit and commercial," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

There are more than 920 child-care centres that the school board would have to manage under Mammoliti's recommendation.

He made that recommendation independent of others made by the task force, which is comprised of several non-partisan child-care experts.

The recommendations include:

- The provincial and federal government consider alternate funding sources for child care, such as tax credits to encourage capital contributions to child-care buildings.

- The city encourage community operators to "partner and explore block purchasing opportunities and other economies of scale" to reduce costs.

- The province consider allocating more of the federal money available under the Canadian Social Transfer to early childhood education and care.

- The province immediately begin to index its child care contributions.

- The province and city work together on a long-term vision for child care.

- The provincial minister of education work with the city on a new funding model.

"They're fairly mundane recommendations that aren't particularly new," Coun. Janet Davis, who sits on the community development and recreation committee that is tasked with overseeing child care in the city, told CBC's Metro Morning in a Thursday interview.

However, handing over control of child-care centres to the province is not a recommendation of the task force, which was formed with the goal of finding a solution to a widening funding gap for child-care subsidies.

The waiting list for those wanting to qualify for a city daycare subsidy currently stands at just over 21,100. The city pays for 2,000 of those subsidies, but the reserve fund it uses to foot that bill is expected to run out in 2014.

'It won't fly'

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who who also sits on the committee, does not agree with Mammoliti's recommendation.

"We know that our daycare programs are oversubscribed. Everybody wants to get into a city funded, city-run daycare program," said Wong-Tam.

"And I think it will be very, very difficult for the province to deliver daycare services to all the individual municipalities and townships. It's just not possible."

Davis was similarly dismissive.

"First of all, it won't fly," she said. "Secondly, the City of Toronto has a great child-care system. We are highly respected across the country. It is one of the best run, cost-effective systems that we have."

She believes the city should retain control of its child-care centres, but agrees funding from senior governments is inadequate.

"What we need are more resources from the provincial government to solve what is an ongoing and chronic underfunding of child care in Toronto."

Provincial funding for child care is not indexed to inflation increases, and remains at the same level as it was in 1996.

Education Minister Laurel Broten didn't directly address Mammoliti's recommendation on Thursday, instead telling reporters she first wanted to see if his position would be adopted by council. But she did say the province "has a role to play" when it comes to child care.

Davis says no decisions will be made until this fall, when the results of a separate child care service review are released.

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