SAM OOSTERHOFF, MPP NIAGARA WEST
The Ontario government is launching the most significant and comprehensive Child Care Workforce Strategy in the province's history. Supported by funding through the Canada-Ontario Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, Ontario's plan will deliver increased wages to Registered Early Childhood Educators and a multipronged strategy to recruit and retain qualified educators.
The Ontario government is also taking action to further protect the safety of children by requiring all licensed child care operators to implement a Safe Arrival and Dismissal Policy by Jan. 1, 2024. This will ensure that when a child does not arrive at the licensed child care program or is not picked up as expected, parents will be informed in line with existing protocols within Ontario’s publicly funded schools. This closes a gap that will protect children from exceptional and preventable tragedies.
"Our government is supporting Registered Early Childhood Educators and increasing protections for Ontario's youngest learners," said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West.
"This new Child Care Workforce Strategy is good news for parents and working families across the province and in Niagara."
"Following the heartbreaking tragedy of the loss of a child, we have the responsibility and obligation to enhance the safety of our youngest learners in child care," said Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.
"Every day, Registered Early Childhood Educators make a tremendous difference in the growth and development of children, which is why our government is unveiling the most comprehensive workforce strategy to recruit and retain child care workers. By hiring more Early Childhood Educators, our government will continue with our plan to keep reducing fees for parents and increasing access to affordable and safe child care for parents."
After extensive consultation, the province has developed a workforce strategy that responds to the issues and priorities of the sector. Starting in 2024, initiatives in the strategy include:
• Increasing the starting wage for Registered Early Childhood Educators employed by child care operators enrolled in the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system to $23.86/hour in 2024 from the planned $20/hour,
• Extending the eligibility ceiling for a $1/hour increase so more Registered Early Childhood Educators can benefit,
• Supporting entry into the profession and career development,
• Cutting red tape for employers and providing more flexibility in staffing their programs,
• Launching a promotional campaign to bolster awareness and value of the child care profession.
This wage enhancement builds on actions taken by the province through the introduction in 2022 of a new wage floor for Registered Early Childhood Educators working in settings participating in the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system which includes annual $1/hour wage increases beginning in 2023.
The announcement builds on Ontario's leadership having already delivered on a multitude of commitments to Ontario families under the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system, including a fifty percent reduction on average in child care fees representing $6,000 to $10,000 in savings per child, the ongoing creation of 86,000 new licensed spaces, and support for parental choice in child care.
Investments from the Government of Ontario and Government of Canada in the child care and early years system for 2024 will total nearly $4 billion. Funding will support the implementation of previously announced fee reductions, workforce supports, and other measures. This investment represents a significant increase of $42 million over 2023 and will ensure Ontario is providing competitive starting wages for Registered Early Childhood Educators, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to further valuing and ultimately retaining this critical workforce.
The province remains committed to ensuring the safety of Ontario's youngest learners and the success of the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system. We will continue to work with municipalities and the sector to ensure affordable child care is available in communities where it is needed most. As the strategy rolls out, Ontario will track and monitor the strategy's impact on Registered Early Childhood Educators recruitment and retention.
• In March 2022, Ontario secured a six-year, $13.2-billion agreement with the federal government which will lower fees for families to an average of $10 a day. Ontario aims to reach that target by September 2025. In December 2022, as part of that agreement, Ontario announced a targeted plan to create thousands of new licensed child care spaces, with a focus on increasing access to Ontario families.
• The province continues to invest $203 million per year through the Wage Enhancement Grant/Home Child Care Enhancement Grant to support higher staff wages - including Registered Early Childhood Educators working in settings that have opted-out of Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system and non-Registered Early Childhood Educators.
• The Ontario government has streamlined the application process for new child care operators. When they apply for a licence, they will learn about their eligibility for Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system funding before investing heavily in becoming licensed. The applicants will also have to submit key municipal approvals with their application.
• There are currently more than 5,500 licensed child care centres, 145 licensed home child care agencies, and around 473,000 licensed spaces in Ontario.