Hamilton is looking at potentially getting involved with Canada’s national child care strategy without waiting for Ontario to sign on.
On Thursday, the city’s emergency and committee services committee unanimously approved a motion from Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann asking city staff to “investigate the potential” of entering into a direct municipal agreement with the federal government.
The $30-billion five-year strategy aims to reduce the cost of daycare to $10 a day by 2026.
Earlier this week, Alberta became the eighth province to sign onto the plan, along with one territory, but Ontario has not yet gotten involved.
Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Tuesday that he would keep negotiating but not settle for a deal he considers inadequate, saying Ontario is looking for more money than is currently being offered.
He’s also urging municipalities to stand with him and not enter into their own deals with the federal government.
Doug Ford says Ontario standing firm on child-care funding demands before making deal
Nann, whose motion asks staff to review that option, said families in Hamilton can’t afford to keep waiting for the province to take action.
“Affordable, equitable child care is the infrastructure that enables working families to work doing what we each rely on them to do every single day in the labour market, while also enabling them to participate more freely in our society and in the local economy,” said Nann.
“There’s no recovery for working parents in Hamilton if they’re paying $12,000 a year for child care.”
In a delegation to the committee, Darryl Hall of Umbrella Family and Child Centres of Hamilton said a Hamiltonian paying for daycare through the national child care strategy could see savings of between $6,200 and $10,000 with a 50 per cent reduction by 2022.
Costs for child care through Umbrella, which is a non-profit, range between $1,000 and $1,700 per month per child, and Hall said for-profit centres charge 37 per cent more than that.
“If you can imagine having more than one child in an infant or toddler care … we’re talking about $30,000 plus tax dollars. What family can afford $30,000 plus tax dollars and remain in the workforce?”
The committee also heard from Denise Christopherson, CEO of the YWCA Hamilton, who highlighted how affordable child care is a “powerful economic engine” when it comes to making sure women are able to participate in the workforce – especially racialized, Indigenous and immigrant women, who have been impacted the most by pandemic job losses.
She said thousands of Hamiltonians need help and can’t wait for the province to make up its mind.
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“This isn’t a moment to play politics. This is a moment to consider what’s best for families, for children and for women who continue to bear the brunt of child care responsibilities – responsibilities that prevent them from returning to work or upskilling or reskilling to explore new opportunities for employment.”
The motion, which still needs to be ratified at city council, urges staff from the healthy and safe communities department to report back on the idea of joining the strategy as a municipality “as soon as possible” but was amended to include a call for the provincial government to sign onto the plan as well.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he supports the motion to get the municipality involved directly but also wants to keep putting pressure on the province to “do the right thing” and become the ninth province to join the strategy.
He added that during his own experience as a stay-at-home father years ago, he wondered if he would be able to re-join the workforce.
“Affordable, equitable, quality daycare … that will provide the opportunity for families and children to get the best start possible – not only in their lives but give women and men who are deciding to stay home the opportunity to get into the workforce [so] that the cost of daycare isn’t so prohibitive that they have to make choices between one or the other.”
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