Is Child Care in Ontario Free?

Many may be wondering how the recent announcement on free child care in Ontario by Premier Kathleen Wynne will affect child care pricing and availability. We are here to help set the record straight!

Who gets free child care in Ontario?

Premier Kathleen Wynne along with MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris announced today that in Ontario, all licensed child care for children ages two-and-a-half to four be free for families beginning in 2020. The five-year action plan is estimated to save the average family $17,000 annually per child, opening up new opportunities for families to return to work and ensure that their children receive high quality care. In short, child care in Ontario is currently not free, but will be free for all children aged two-and-a-half by 2020

How much is the government investing in child care?

The Ontario government is investing an additional total $2.2 billion over three years in child care. The investment will be distributed to increase access and reduce cost across the entire child care industry. The government has announced spending including:

  • $930 million is earmarked for the free preschool childcare program beginning in September 2020.
  • $162.5 million is pledged to increase operating funding across the child care system to reduce fees and increase overall child care access.
  • $90 million will be spent in 2018-2019 towards 4,200 additional fee subsidies and establish base funding for home daycares
  • $40 million will be used to expand child care in First Nations communities, which includes capital funding for construction and/or renovation of new and/or existing centers.
  • $30 million will go into an innovation fund to seek solutions to chronic issues in child care

Is child care free for infants and toddlers? When does free child care start?

The plan goes a long way to make child care more affordable in Ontario. However, the plan does not include free child care for infant and toddlers younger than two-and-a-half, nor can families expect to receive free child care for their preschoolers until September 2020.

Ontario’s spring budget for 2018 included $200 million to create 8,000 additional licensed spaces and 16,000 fee subsidies to lower high child care prices and increase availability while the more sweeping five-year action plan is put into action.

An important element to this announcement today is the support for fair wages for early childhood professionals. “Making child care more affordable and accessible was one of the key recommendations from the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee’s final report. This supports Ontario’s Strategy for Women’s Economic Empowerment that will help close the wage gap between men and women.

Lyndsay Macdonald, RECE and Coordinator for the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario says: “High-quality early years education for children begins and ends with well-educated, well-compensated and passionate early childhood educators. Registered Early Childhood Educators are trained professionals who play a valuable and important role in our communities by caring for and educating children while their parents go to work or finish studying. Nearly 10,000 people have added their names to the AECEO’s petition calling for all ECEs to have professional pay because we know that children benefit when their educators are well-supported. By establishing a provincial wage scale supported with appropriate public funding Ontario can recruit and retain qualified early childhood educators who will be better able to build stable and fulfilling careers in the early years and child care sector. This unprecedented announcement means that Ontario will take a bold leap away from a patchwork of services toward a real system of quality care and education that families can trust.” expressed Lyndsay Macdonald, RECE and Coordinator, Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario.”

What do we at HiMama think about this announcement?

Ron Spreeuwenberg, CEO of HiMama says: “Funding to make quality, licensed child care accessible for parents in Ontario is welcomed news. We hope that the government will support all child care programs through the change, both public and private, who have played such a critical role in the Ontario child care ecosystem.”

The free child care plan aligns with policy recommendations also released today from Dr. Gordon Cleveland, an Associate Professor of Economics from the University of Toronto Scarborough. Free child care for preschool-age children is reported to be a key recommendation from the released report.

Savannah Copland

Savannah Copland is a Marketing Manager at HiMama. She has been working for over 3 years in the early childhood education space, and feels incredibly fortunate to have met, interviewed, and worked closely with registered early childhood educators, thought leaders and researchers during that time. She is particularly interested in finding novel ways for child care centers to market themselves and bolster their enrollment. She loves cats, and always needs at least one toy on her desk to fidget with!