The provincial government is partially walking back its planned cut to child-care subsidies for Toronto in 2020, leaving unclear what will happen the following year.
The change of course by Queen’s Park will leave the city short $2.8-million next year, Toronto board of health chair Joe Cressy said, instead of the $15-million that had initially been announced. But even the smaller cut means 186 fewer subsidized child-care spots for low-income families, unless Toronto can fill the funding gap, in a city with thousands of people on the list for one.
In an interview Sunday, Mr. Cressy said the Province of Ontario has changed course several times this year on how much it would subsidize low-income child care in the city.
“It is getting silly,” he said. “It’s what I have called a slow ripping off of the Band-Aid.”
The shift was communicated to the city on Friday and represents the latest in a series of climbdowns by the provincial government. In the face of protests and opposition, it has reversed course on autism funding, public-health funding and, in recent weeks, its pledge to take over Toronto’s current subway system.
On the low-income child-care subsidy, the province initially announced retroactive cuts. That was cancelled and a $15-million cut, taking effect next year, was subsequently announced. The latest development means the city will have a smaller cut in 2020. According to Mr. Cressy, though, the city will face the full $15-million gap the following year, which amounts to funding for more than 750 spots.
In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed the $2.8-million cut but said funding for future years cannot be determined now, as there are variables making it impossible to project accurately. Alexandra Adamo also said that Toronto’s auditor-general had identified a number of ways the city could operate more efficiently.
Mayor John Tory commended the province for its partial retreat but said he would continue to seek more funding.
“Although no reduction in funding would be best, we have now been notified that we won’t lose as much,” a statement posted on his official Twitter account on Saturday read. “While I am happy about this step in the right direction … I will continue to advocate for more child-care funding from the other governments, not less.”
Mr. Cressy also voiced his frustration about how the province’s actions have left the city fighting a rearguard action to protect the current system, rather than working together to improve it.
“Instead of having a conversation about how we make child care more affordable and accessible, we are caught in this endless cycle of fighting to stop cuts,” he said.
“We have 17,000 people on the waiting list for subsidies. We should be having a conversation about how we end the waiting list for subsidies, instead we’re fighting to stop cuts to our subsidy.”
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