Nearly a year after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appointed a task force to find “alternative sources of funding” for the city’s cash-strapped daycares, the committee is limping across the finish line with a slim report, recycled recommendations and a major disagreement over whether the city should get out of the child-care business.
A draft copy of the task force’s report, which is scheduled to be released on Thursday, makes clear that the chair, councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, is alone in advocating that the municipal government hand over to the province and school board the operation of 53 city-run daycares and the administration of nearly 900 others by 2018.
“[Offering child care through schools] will create the necessary partnerships that will enable a system to work for all families with either single or multiple children throughout all stages of development and age groups,” according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
“Let it be clearly stated that this recommendation is on behalf of the Chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Child Care and is separate from the following recommendations outlined below.”
The other 11 members of the task force, all non-partisan child-care experts, joined Mr. Mammoliti in making another seven recommendations, including urging community daycare operators to partner and explore bulk purchasing for economies of scale; asking senior governments to consider tax credits to encourage capital contributions to child-care buildings; and developing long-term plans for funding daycare.
“There’s nothing new here at all in terms of recommendations,” said councillor Janet Davis, a long-time advocate of publicly funded daycare. “We don’t need any more upheaval in the child-care sector at the moment.”
Toronto’s child-care industry and the parents who rely are on it are being squeezed from all sides.
Full-day kindergarten, which will be in every school in Ontario by 2014, has put added pressure on daycares.
As four- and five-year-olds leave the child-care system, daycare providers will have to renovate to create more appropriate spaces for infants and toddlers, who are expensive to care for because more workers are required for them than older children under provincial law.
Toronto, meanwhile, has been using a reserve fund to pay for some of the subsidized spaces it cost-shares with the province, but that fund will be depleted by 2014, putting 2,000 spots in jeopardy.
More than than 21,000 Toronto children are on the waiting list for a child-care-fee subsidy, according to the draft report.
Peter Frampton, the executive director of the Toronto-based Learning Enrichment Foundation and a member of the task force, said he did not personally agree with Mr. Mammoliti’s recommendation.
“It’s not really a solution. You’re just moving the issue and the infrastructure to another home,” he said. “I don’t see any real savings for taxpayers and [it would be a] significant learning curve for school boards.”
Mr. Frampton said the task force considered funding the expansion of childcare through other tax measures or a possible lottery, but swiftly rejected the idea and didn’t include it in the final report.
Mr. Mammoliti said asking the province and school board to take control of Toronto’s child care centres is, in part, a “political recommendation.”
“It’s clear to me that the province is not going to give us the money that we need,” Mr. Mammoliti said. “Instead of going forward with a whole slew of other meetings and dialogue around this … we should just get out of the business.”
A spokesman for Education Minister Laurel Broten said the Liberal government would review the report and wait for city council to have its say, while the chair of the Toronto District School Board, who hasn’t seen the report, expressed some early misgivings about Mr. Mammoliti’s recommendation.
“I think that it may just be a little simplistic to be saying, ‘give it to somebody else,’” Chris Bolton said. “What I would suggest is we use this as a beginning point in the discussion, not an end point.”
Samuel Andemariam, who was at the City Kids Child Care Centre on Bathurst Street to pick up his three-year-old son on Wednesday, said he drives a half hour each way from his home northwest of the downtown core to bring his son to the city-run facility.
“It’s a great daycare. One of the best,” Mr. Andemariam said.
When asked if it made a difference who ran the centre, Mr. Andemariam said it did to him.
“We’re city taxpayers,” he said. “Our money should be put to use for our kids.”