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Daycare task force mulled a candy tax to raise funds: Mammoliti

Toronto daycares are so cash-strapped that a city-led task force briefly considered introducing a candy tax for children to boost revenues, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti told reporters Thursday.

"It just goes to show you that providers are…grasping at ways of finding money to be able to take care of children in this city," said Mr. Mammoliti, the chair of the mayor's task force on child care, who released a report of recommendations aimed at salvaging Toronto's early childhood education and care system.

The report made seven joint 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.

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Mr. Mammoliti included a personal recommendation in the report, not agreed to by the other 11 task force members who are all non-partisan child-care experts. He called for 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.

At the news conference, Mr. Mammoliti said the issue comes down to an ultimatum: the province can either accept the recommendations of the report or it needs to take over the city's child-care responsibilities.

"We have to stop hiding our heads in the sand," he said. "We can't afford it any more and unless the province agrees with these seven recommendations and does it in a hurry, we have no choice but to get out of the business."

Of his own recommendation he said: "I know it's controversial, and I know there'll be some people that may not like it.

"I ask every single parent, at their dinner table, to ask themselves this question tonight when they're having dinner: Would it be easier for me to drop off my two or three children in a school, as opposed to running around in the morning for an hour and dropping them off at daycares?"

Grahame Rivers, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said the province will continue to work with the city as it reviews the recommendations.

"Child care is a shared responsibility," wrote Mr. Rivers in an e-mail to The Globe. "(W)e look forward to hearing what city council, as a whole, decides to support."

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