Ontario child care advocates are celebrating the signing of the Canada-Ontario child care agreement, but are also warning that child care expansion will fail without addressing the sector’s plummeting staff retention and growing worker shortage.

“Today is a huge step forward, but we must learn from the mistakes of our past and correct course now—we cannot expand on the practices that have deeply broken Ontario’s child care system,” says Carolyn Ferns, Policy Coordinator at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC). “Child care workers and advocates from across the province agree. Without addressing chronic working conditions, including low wages and inadequate sick leave that are leading to a mass exodus of trained and experienced workers, Ontario’s plan will ultimately fail the families who’ve finally found hope in the province’s child care system.”

Advocates had called for a workforce strategy to include a wage grid starting at $25 per hour wage floor child care workers and decent work standards that include 10 paid sick days, adequate planning time, and paid time for professional learning.

“The Ford government’s announcement today of a $18 per hour wage floor for ECEs is inadequate and demonstrates how ignorant the government is about the extent of the crisis of recruitment and retention in the province and what salaries and benefits are necessary to solve it,” says Rachel Vickerson, Executive Director of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO).

Parents also understand the necessity for a provincial child care workforce strategy, reports CUPE, the OCBCC, and AECEO.

“We need and deserve access to early learning and child care workers who are treated with respect and dignity,” says Wendy LaRose of Toronto Parents for Child Care. “We cannot build a universal system of care and early learning on the backs of an exploited workforce, who are mostly women and racialized.”