Transcript: An Update to Ontario's Child Care Changes | May 13, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and spotted gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario's child care changes. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says LAST MONTH'S ONTARIO
BUDGET SIGNALLED THE
GOVERNMENT'S PREFERENCE FOR TAX
CREDITS OVER SUBSIDIES FOR CHILD
CARE.
NOW, AS MORE DETAILS EMERGE
ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT'S WIDER
FUNDING STRATEGY FOR THE SECTOR,
ADVOCATES... AND MANY
MUNICIPALITIES ACROSS THE
PROVINCE... ARE SPEAKING UP.
THAT INCLUDES CAROLYN FERNS,
PUBLIC POLICY AND GOVERNMENT
RELATIONS COORDINATOR, ONTARIO
COALITION FOR BETTER CHILD CARE.

Carolyn is in her forties, with chin-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer over a purple shirt, and a beaded necklace.

Steve continues WELCOME BACK.

Carolyn says THANK YOU VERY HAVING ME.

Steve says YOU WERE JUST HERE A
MONTH AGO.

Carolyn says THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says BUT WE DECIDED TO GET
YOU BACK IN HERE BECAUSE THE
EARTH HAS MOVED SOMEWHAT.

Carolyn says THINGS HAVE CHANGED, YES.
THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says BRING US UP TO SPEED.
WHAT'S DIFFERENT?

The caption changes to "Carolyn Ferns. Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care."
Then, it changes again to "Funding cuts."

Carolyn says SO WHEN THE BUDGET CAME DOWN
ON APRIL 11, YOU KNOW, THE
MESSAGE THAT WE HEARD FROM THE
GOVERNMENT WAS THIS IS BUSINESS
AS USUAL, CHILD CARE FUNDING
HASN'T CHANGED.
THERE'S A NEW TAX CREDIT, BUT
THAT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE
THINGS FOR THE LICENSED CHILD
CARE BUDGET.
BUT WE DIDN'T SEE ANY DETAILS AT
THAT POINT.
SO SINCE THEN, THE COMMUNITY AND
MUNICIPALITIES HAVE SORT OF BEEN
WAITING FOR SOME OF THOSE
DETAILS, AND A FEW OF THOSE
DETAILS HAVE EMERGED.
WE'VE SORT OF BEEN PLAYING
DETECTIVE TO SORT OF GET THEM
FROM THE GOVERNMENT, BUT IT'S
BECOME CLEAR THAT, YOU KNOW,
THAT LINE ON BUDGET DAY WAS JUST
SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
AND MUNICIPALITIES ARE FACING AT
A MINIMUM 80 MILLION DOLLARS IN CUTS TO
CHILD CARE FUNDING.

Steve says SO THE LINE YOU'RE
REFERRING TO ON BUDGET DAY IS
THAT IT'S STATUS QUO AND
NOBODY'S GOING TO BE CUT.

Carolyn says MM-HM, THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says THE CUTS HAVE BEEN
ANNOUNCED AND THEY HAVE BEEN APPARENT.

Carolyn says YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT.
I MEAN, OUR ORGANIZATION, WHEN
WE GOT THOSE ALLOCATION FIGURES
THAT SHOWED MONEY THAT GOES FROM
THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT TO
MUNICIPALITIES FOR CHILD CARE,
SIMPLY COMPARING THE 2019
NUMBERS TO THE 2018 NUMBERS, WE
SEE AN IMMEDIATE 80 MILLION DOLLAR CUT
TO CHILD CARE.
AND THEN WHAT THE CITY OF
TORONTO HAS DONE, AND OTHER
MUNICIPALITIES ARE DOING RIGHT
NOW, THEY ARE CRUNCHING THE
NUMBERS, IS TO ALSO TAKE INTO
ACCOUNT THE OTHER POLICY CHANGES
THAT ARE BEING IMPOSED ON
MUNICIPALITIES, CHANGES TO COST
SHARING, THAT SORT OF THING.
AND THE CITY OF TORONTO HAS
SHOWN THAT THAT MAKES THE CUT
EVEN DEEPER.
THEY ARE ESTIMATING THERE COULD
BE 6,000 SUBSIDIES LOST IN THE
CITY OF TORONTO ALONE, AND LIKE
I SAY, OTHER MUNICIPALITIES ARE
STILL CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS ON
THAT, ACTUALLY WAITING FOR EVEN
A FEW MORE DETAILS FROM THE
GOVERNMENT.
AND WE'RE WORRIED THAT AS OTHER
MUNICIPALITIES FIGURE OUT WHAT
THE IMPACTS ARE GOING TO BE,
WE'RE GOING TO SEE SOME REAL
CUTS TO SERVICES THAT AFFECT
FAMILIES.

Steve says LET'S JUST LOOK AT
THAT 80 MILLION PROVINCE-WIDE
NUMBER.
WHERE DO YOU GET THAT NUMBER
FROM?

Carolyn says SO WE GET IT FROM THE
GOVERNMENT, FROM THE MINISTRY OF
EDUCATION'S ALLOCATIONS TO CHILD
CARE.
SO IT'S THE GOVERNMENT'S FIGURE.
THAT'S WHY WE DIDN'T HAVE IT
WHEN THE BUDGET CAME DOWN.
WE WAITED FOR THEM TO RELEASE
THEIR ALLOCATIONS.
WE COMPARED THEM TO THE YEAR
BEFORE, AND THERE'S 80 MILLION DOLLARS
GONE.

Steve says AND WHAT DOES AN 80
MILLION DOLLAR CUT MEAN IN YOUR WORLD?

The caption changes to "Carolyn Ferns, @OCBCC."

Carolyn says UMM, IT MEANS A LOT.
SO YOU KNOW, HERE IN TORONTO
THEY HAVE ALREADY STARTED
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS ON
SUBSIDIES BEING LOST, AND THEY
ARE SAYING IT COULD BE OVER
6,000 SUBSIDIES.
THE GOVERNMENT DISPUTES THAT
NUMBER, BUT EVEN IF IT WAS HALF
THAT MANY SUBSIDIES LOST, WHAT
HAPPENS IS MUNICIPALITIES HAVE
TO FREEZE SUBSIDIES.
AND WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT
FAMILIES THAT QUALIFY FOR
SUBSIDY, LOW-INCOME FAMILIES WHO
WOULD QUALIFY FOR FINANCIAL
ASSISTANCE TO PAY FOR CHILD
CARE, THEY SIMPLY CANNOT GET A
SUBSIDY.
SUBSIDIES HAVE BEEN FROZEN.
SO A LOW-INCOME FAMILY, MAYBE A
SINGLE MOM WHO NEEDS TO GO BACK
TO WORK, YOU KNOW, NEEDS THAT
CHILD CARE SUBSIDY TO BE ABLE TO
DO THAT, WON'T BE ABLE TO GET A
CHILD CARE SUBSIDY.
THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS AT THE END
OF THE DAY.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live."

Steve says AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN
FOR HER LIFE?

Carolyn says WELL, WHAT IT MEANS FOR HER
LIFE, AND WE HAVE PARENTS WHO
CALL OUR OFFICE ALL THE TIME TO
TELL US THE SITUATIONS THAT
THEY'RE FACING, IT MEANS THAT
THEY CAN'T GO BACK TO WORK.
THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT JOB.
MAYBE THEY'RE WANTING TO GO BACK
TO SCHOOL.
WE HAD A MOM AT OUR PRESS
CONFERENCE ON FRIDAY TALKING
ABOUT HOW SHE'D BEEN ACCEPTED
INTO A PHD PROGRAM, AND SHE
COULDN'T GO BECAUSE THERE WAS NO
CHILD CARE SPACE.
THE MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNMENT
THAT, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE ARE
EXAGGERATING, IT'S BECOMING
HARDER AND HARDER TO BELIEVE
THAT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT
ONLY THE CITY OF TORONTO.
IT'S NOT ONLY THE OPPOSITION AT
THIS POINT.
IT'S, YOU KNOW, THE BIG CITY
MAYORS, THE RURAL MAYORS TALKING
ABOUT PUBLIC HEALTH, AND IN THE
CASE OF CHILD CARE, IT'S PARENTS
AND IT'S CHILD CARE PROVIDERS
WHO DO THIS EVERY DAY, WHO KNOW
EXACTLY WHAT THIS MONEY MEANS TO
THEIR PROGRAMS AND WHETHER OR
NOT THEY CAN KEEP THE DOORS
OPEN.
SO I THINK THAT THE MINISTRY AND
THE FORD GOVERNMENT SHOULD
LISTEN TO PEOPLE THAT ARE TRYING
TO GET THEIR ATTENTION AND SAY,
HEY, THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG
HERE.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT I WORRY IS
THAT, YOU KNOW, NOW THEY'RE
GOING TO TALK ABOUT
CONSULTATION, BUT YOU DON'T
CONSULT AFTER THE FACT.
YOU KNOW, YOU SHOULD BE
CONSULTING UP FRONT WITH THE
COMMUNITY, LISTENING TO THE
COMMUNITY, AND THEN MAKING A
DECISION.

Steve says WELL, THE MINISTER'S
OFFICE MAY NOT HAVE RESPONDED TO
US, BUT LISA MACLEOD, THE
MINISTER OF EDUCATION, DID
RESPOND IN THE LEGISLATURE TO
QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS.
SO WE'LL PLAY A CLIP OF THAT AND
THEN YOU CAN TELL ME WHAT YOU
THINK OF THE ANSWER, OKAY?

Carolyn says SURE.

Steve says SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "May 6, 2019. Honourable Lisa M. Thompson. PC. Minister of Education."
In the clip from Question Period, Minister Thompson stands and speaks in the Ontario Legislature.

She says WE HAVE TO GET ALL THE FACTS
OUT ON THE TABLE.
YOU KNOW, WE KNOW FOR A FACT
THAT THE CITY-RUN DAYCARE
CENTRES ARE 30 percent HIGHER IN COST
THAN ANY OTHER CENTRES ACROSS
THIS PROVINCE.
AND YOU KNOW, EVEN THE CITY'S
OWN AUDITOR GENERAL...

The Speaker says ORDER!

Thompson says EVEN THE CITY'S OWN AUDITOR
GENERAL HAS RAISED WARNING FLAGS
ABOUT THE MANNER IN WHICH THE
CITY OF TORONTO HAS MANAGED AND
ADMINISTERED THEIR DAYCARE
CENTRES.
FOR INSTANCE, THEY HAVE CITY
ADMINISTRATORS GO AROUND AND
MONITOR THINGS, LIKE HOW MUCH
GREENERY IS ON TREES.
THEY ALSO HAVE CITY
ADMINISTRATORS GO AROUND TO MAKE
SURE THE SEASONAL DECORATIONS
ARE IN PLACE IN DAYCARES.
HONESTLY, SPEAKER, IS THAT THE
BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS?
I THINK THAT... CAN FIND 5 percent IN
ADMINISTRATION EFFICIENCIES
BECAUSE WE NEED TO GET IT RIGHT
FOR THE FAMILIES.

The clip ends.

Steve says OKAY.
BUNCH OF THINGS TO UNPACK THERE.
LET'S START WITH THIS.
30 percent HIGHER COST IN THE KIND OF
SITUATION SHE DESCRIBED VERSUS
OTHER PLACES IN THE PROVINCE.

The caption changes to "Finding inefficiencies."

Carolyn says SO WHAT THE MINISTER IS
REFERRING TO IS CHILD CARE
PROGRAMS THAT ARE RUN BY THE
CITY OF TORONTO.
AND THE DIFFERENCE IN COST OF
THOSE PROGRAMS IS LABOUR COSTS.
IT'S PAYING EARLY CHILDHOOD
EDUCATORS DECENTLY, AND THAT'S
ACTUALLY ONE OF THE WONDERFUL
THINGS ABOUT CITY OF TORONTO
PROGRAMS.
IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT,
FRANKLY, PARENTS FLOCK TO TRY TO
GET A SPACE IN THE CITY OF
TORONTO CHILD CARE CENTRE, IS
BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOW TURNOVER
OF STAFF, HIGHLY QUALIFIED
STAFF, EARLY CHILDHOOD
EDUCATORS, THAT MAKE THE
PROGRAMS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN.

Steve says ARE THEY UNIONIZED?

Carolyn says THEY ARE.
THEY'RE UNIONIZED, AND THERE ARE
PROGRAMS THAT OTHER, YOU KNOW,
OTHER COMMUNITIES LOOK TO AS AN
EXAMPLE OF WHAT CHILD CARE
SHOULD BE.
AND YOU KNOW, OUR MEMBERS ARE
OFTEN NOT... ARE MOSTLY
NON-PROFIT CHILD CARE PROGRAMS,
AND THEY ARE ACTUALLY VERY
SUPPORTIVE OF PUBLIC CHILD CARE
AND THE CITY OF TORONTO'S CHILD
CARE CENTRES BECAUSE THEY KNOW
THAT THEY ARE ALMOST AN EXEMPLAR
FOR WHAT WE SHOULD WANT FOR ALL
CHILD CARE.

Steve says I HAVE NOT
INDEPENDENTLY CONFIRMED WHAT THE
MINISTER SAID IN THE HOUSE THERE
ABOUT INSPECTORS GOING AROUND
AND MAKING SURE THAT SEASONAL
DISPLAYS WERE UP TO SPEED OR
WHATEVER THE EXPRESSION IS.
BUT IF THAT IS IN FACT THE CASE,
WOULD YOU AGREE THAT THAT'S AN
UNNECESSARY EXPENDITURE?

Carolyn says I THINK SHE'S EXAGGERATING
SOME OF THOSE EXAMPLES THERE.
WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT, I
THINK, IS, YOU KNOW, CITY OF
TORONTO QUALITY ASSURANCE WHICH
GOES INTO CENTRES AND MAKES
SURE, YOU KNOW, THAT THEY ARE
DOING A GOOD JOB AND THAT THEY
ARE OFFERING QUALITY PROGRAMS TO
CHILDREN.
NOW MINISTER THOMPSON IS THE
MINISTER OF EDUCATION.
SHE SHOULD KNOW THAT WE HAVE A
CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK HERE IN
ONTARIO FOR EARLY LEARNING AND
CHILD CARE CALLED HOW DOES
LEARNING HAPPEN.
WHAT THOSE INSPECT RRS ARE DOING
IS MAKING SURE THAT HER
CURRICULUM DOCUMENT IS BEING
CARRIED OUT IN PROGRAMS THAT
THOSE CHILDREN ARE HAVING HIGH
QUALITY EARLY LEARNING
EXPERIENCES.
I THINK AS THE MINISTER OF
EDUCATION SHE SHOULD BE VERY
INTERESTED IN THAT.

Steve says ONE OF THE THINGS SHE
WENT ON TO SAY WAS THAT IN A
BUDGET WHERE THE PROVINCE
TRANSFERS A BILLION DOLLARS FOR
CHILD CARE FUNDING TRANSFERS TO
CITIES, HOW BIG A DIFFERENCE IS
80 MILLION DOLLARS ON A BUDGET OF A
BILLION DOLLARS.
WHAT'S THE RESPONSE TO THAT?

Carolyn says WELL, WHAT I WISH THE
MINISTER WOULD UNDERSTAND ON
THIS FILE IS THAT, YOU KNOW, 80
MILLION DOLLARS ACTUALLY MAKES A BIG
DIFFERENCE.
CHILD CARE PROGRAMS ARE OFTEN
RUN... THEY ARE RUNNING A VERY
TIGHT SHIP.
AND AS I WAS TALKING ABOUT
BEFORE, ABOUT SUBSIDIES, THE
WORRY IS THAT AS SOON AS BUDGETS
GET CUT C SUBSIDIES GET FROZEN.
NOW THE EFFECT OF THAT IS THAT
NEW FAMILIES, EVEN IF THEY
QUALIFY, CAN'T GET A FEE
SUBSIDY.
THAT MEANS THEY CAN'T AFFORD A
CHILD CARE SPACE.
THAT MEANS THAT CENTRE OFTEN HAS
A VACANCY BECAUSE NOBODY CAN
AFFORD A CHILD CARE SPACE.
SO WE GET INTO THIS UNFORTUNATE,
RIDICULOUS SITUATION WHERE WE
HAVE WAIT LISTS FOR CHILD CARE
BECAUSE FAMILIES WANT CHILD CARE
SPACES, BUT NOBODY CAN AFFORD
THEM.
RIGHT?
SO THAT'S THE EFFECT OF HAVING A
SUBSIDY FREEZE, AND THAT PUTS
PROGRAMS AT RISK OF CLOSURE.
SO I WISH THE MINISTER
UNDERSTOOD THIS FILE BETTER TO
SEE THAT THERE'S A FINE BALANCE
IN KEEPING CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
OPERATING AND THAT SHE TOOK THAT
RESPONSIBILITY A BIT MORE
SERIOUSLY.

Steve says I HEAR YOU, BUT OF
COURSE THE GOVERNMENT FIRST AND
FOREMOST HAS PLEDGED TO BALANCE
THE BUDGET WITHIN FIVE YEARS.
AND I GUESS IN THEIR
VIEW THEY SEE EVERY SINGLE THING
THAT GOVERNMENT DOES IS GOING TO
HAVE TO TIGHTEN ITS BELT.
HEALTH CARE'S GOING TO HAVE TO
TIGHTEN THE BELT.
EDUCATION, THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
AND SO ARE CHILD CARE GOING TO
HAVE TO TIGHTEN THE BELT.
IS THAT A REASONABLE ARGUMENT?

Carolyn says YOU KNOW, THAT'S DEFINITELY
THE GOVERNMENT'S ARGUMENT, BUT I
WOULD POINT TO THEIR NEW CARE
TAX CREDIT WHERE THEY ARE
SPENDING AT LEAST 390 MILLION DOLLARS
AND POSSIBLY MILLIONS MORE,
ESTIMATES FROM ECONOMISTS.
YOU KNOW, IF THAT NUMBER
CONTINUES TO BALLOON, IT'S GOING
TO CREATE ADDITIONAL PRESSURE ON
THE EDUCATION BUDGET, ON THE
CHILD CARE BUDGET, AND GIVING
PARENTS A BIT OF MONEY IN THEIR
POCKETS WHEN THERE'S NO CHILD
CARE SPACES TO SPEND IT IN ISN'T
GOING TO BE VERY HELPFUL.
SO I THINK IT'S ABOUT SMART
INVESTMENT IN CHILD CARE AND
REALLY LOOKING AT THE SYSTEM AS
A WHOLE.

Steve says LET'S, CAROLYN,
FINISH UP ON THIS.
I HAVEN'T HEARD ANYONE IN THE
GOVERNMENT ARTICULATE THIS,
ALTHOUGH I THINK IT'S PROBABLY
SAFE TO SAY SOME PEOPLE FEEL
THIS WAY, WHICH IS THEY ARE NOT
CRAZY ABOUT THE IDEA OF CITIES
BEING IN THE QUOTE UNQUOTE
BUSINESS OF OPERATING CHILD
CARE.
THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THE
PRIVATE SECTOR, IN THEIR VIEW,
OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE
OF, AND IF PEOPLE WANT CHILD
CARE, GO PURCHASE IT AS A GOOD
AS YOU WOULD ANYTHING ELSE.
HOW ABOUT THAT ARGUMENT?

Carolyn says UMM, I THINK THAT THAT DOES
ARTICULATE THE GOVERNMENT'S
FEELINGS ON THE MATTER.
JUST TO EXPLAIN THE SORT OF
CHILD CARE SECTOR AS A WHOLE,
CITY-RUN OR MUNICIPALLY OPERATED
REGIONALLY OPERATED CHILD CARE
PROGRAMS ARE A VERY SMALL PIECE
OF CHILD CARE SPACES, BUT THEY
ARE AN IMPORTANT ONE BECAUSE, AS
I SAID, THEY PROVIDE EXAMPLES OF
REALLY HIGH QUALITY PROGRAM.
THEY ARE OFTEN USED AS RESEARCH
HUBS TO DISCOVER NEW THINGS
ABOUT CREATING GREAT QUALITY
PROGRAMS.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF CHILD CARE
IN THE PROVINCE RIGHT NOW, MORE
THAN 75 percent, IS NON-PROFIT.
SO IT'S PRIVATE NON-PROFIT CHILD
CARE PROGRAMS.
NOW WHERE THE GOVERNMENT IS NOW
MAKING A CHANGE IS IN OPENING UP
MORE GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND MORE
EXPANSION TO FOR-PROFIT CHILD
CARE. AND I THINK THAT'S VERY
CONCERNING, BECAUSE RESEARCH HAS
SHOWN THAT THERE'S A QUALITY
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NON-PROFIT
AND FOR-PROFIT CHILD CARE.

Steve says WE HAD THIS FIGHT LAST
TIME YOU WERE ON THE SHOW.

Carolyn says IT'S PUBLIC EDUCATION MONEY,
AND I THINK THAT ONTARIANS
ACTUALLY WOULD BE A BIT WORRIED
TO HEAR THAT THE MINISTRY OF
EDUCATION IS SPENDING PUBLIC
EDUCATION DOLLARS ON BRINGING
BIG BOX FOR-PROFIT CHILD CARE
INTO OUR SCHOOLS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor."

Steve says THAT'S OUR TIME.
WE THANK CAROLYN FERNS FROM THE
ONTARIO COALITION FOR BETTER
CHILD CARE FOR COMING BACK TO
OUR STUDIO TO UPDATE US ON
WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON, AND MY
SUSPICION IS THIS ISN'T THE
LAST WE'LL SEE OF YOU.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Carolyn says NO, DEFINITELY NOT.
THANK YOU.

Steve says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Watch: An Update to Ontario's Child Care Changes