Parents and operators are concerned as only 41%, or 2265 out of a total of 5523, of Ontario’s child care centres have re-opened as back-to-school and return-to-work quickly approaches. This contrasts multiple claims from Premier Ford that child care is currently at 91% capacity, CUPE Ontario reports.

“Ford expects child care to just fix itself and refuses to address the massive funding shortfalls hindering the safe re-opening of child care,” says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, CUPE Social Services Chair. “Parents are fearful that they’ll lose their jobs unless child care gets the support it desperately needs, including a real plan from Ford and Minister Leece on how child care can re-open safely so that parents can return to work.”

In May, CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC), and the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario outlined a comprehensive plan on how to re-open child care safely, including recommendations to ensure adequate funding and supports for educators and programs.

“Ford would rather get a leg up on his re-election campaign than actually help families by getting child care back up and running,” says Carolyn Ferns, Policy Coordinator at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “Ford is demanding that child care centres do the impossible—there’s no new funding or resources to find adequate space and appropriate staffing to do child care safely, and time is running out.”

The current system of child care in Ontario can only accommodate 30 per cent of children and parents face growing wait lists for coveted child care spaces.

“Child care was in crisis long before the pandemic,” continued Poole-Cotnam. “Without adequate child care, thousands of parents, mostly women, will be forced out of work. Women are essential to the good function of our society and are of vital importance during our economic recovery.”

CUPE Ontario and OCBCC call on the government to invest in a universally accessible child care system now in order to usher in a complete economic recovery that includes everyone, particularly low-income families who are working to escape the poverty cycle.

“Universally funded, accessible child care will ensure that all parents can return-to-work and that all children have access to necessary early learning programs,” continued Ferns. “Every dollar invested in child care strengthens our economic recovery and improves outcomes for early learners.”

CUPE Ontario represents more than 12,000 members working in child care and early childhood education and works closely with the OCBCC to advocate for high-quality, universal, and affordable child care.