Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Day care: Provincial takeover proposal finds little support
Members of the mayor’s task force on child care are distancing themselves from comments made by the group’s chair, Giorgio Mammoliti, regarding a provincial takeover of Toronto’s 53 child-care centres.
“In a nutshell, (we) looked at the modernization of child care and exploring the possible expansion of child care,” said Peter Frampton, executive director of the Learning Enrichment Foundation, one of the eight members.
A provincial takeover of the file is not one of the group’s recommendations, said both Frampton and Ryerson University’s Rachel Langford, director of the School of Early Childhood Studies.
The day before Mammoliti was to unveil the task force’s long-awaited report on the future of Toronto child care, the colourful councillor announced he personally would be recommending Toronto upload responsibility to the Ministry of Education.
“I think it’s safe to say that on Thursday I’ll be recommending that the city get out of the business of child care and look to the school boards to run these programs,” Mammoliti said Wednesday, adding that the report will explore a variety of options, including public-private partnerships.
When asked if this meant we could be seeing a Fisher-Price Daycare, Mammoliti said that was exactly what they’re talking about. Frampton said the group indeed did explore how to expand the system through partnerships, but the example he gave was a new condo outfitted with a daycare centre.
“That’s nothing new or radical,” Frampton said.
Mammoliti, a staunch Ford ally and former MPP, was handed the child-care portfolio by the mayor a year ago. Mammoliti’s controversial position was foreshadowed last November, when the task force declared the city needs $123 million to stabilize the ailing system.
“This is not an issue that the City of Toronto can solve locally. This is a situation created by the province and is one that can only be resolved by the province,” Mammoliti said at the time.
Child care experts say moving the daycare portfolio to the province would accomplish nothing to fix Toronto’s daycare “crisis.”
“The problem is solely funding. We have never got the provincial government to ante up the appropriate amount of funding,” said Jane Mercer, who heads the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care.
“The one thing we can be sure of is the city is doing an incredible job of managing the system with scrap resources. Pushing this onto somebody else’s plate is just going to move the problem around.”
Councillor Janet Davis, a longtime child care advocate, said she is confident council — which has outright revolted against the mayor’s policy initiatives since January — wants to keep daycare in-house.
The province also seemed cool to the idea.
When asked about Mammoliti’s proposal, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education emailed a statement with a laundry list of current provincial investments in child care.
“Full-day kindergarten is one of the most important investments we can make in Ontario’s future prosperity. We have recently announced additional funding — $90 million in 2012-13, $68 million in 2013-14 and $84 million in 2014-15 — to support the transition to modernize the child care system in Ontario,” the spokesperson wrote.
“We all have a role to play in providing child care and value the collaborative approach the province and municipalities take.”
Members of the task force said the primary recommendation of the report — to be released at 11 p.m. Thursday outside Ford’s office — will be to start a broad-based discussion about the future of child care with a group much larger than their committee.