Ontario reaches $10-a-day child care deal with federal government: sources

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government has reached a deal with Ottawa for a $10-a-day child care program, senior officials familiar with the negotiations told CBC News.

The deal is to be officially announced on Monday, officials said, making Ontario the latest province to sign on to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national child care plan.

The agreement commits the federal government to providing $10.2 billion to Ontario over five years to reduce the average cost of a child care space to $10 a day by 2026, according to two provincial officials.

It’s the same amount the Trudeau government has offered Ontario since negotiations began on the child care plan last year.

For parents, the funding means an imminent reduction in childcare costs by an average of 25%, with a further drop of 25% within a year.

Provincial officials said the agreement also includes a plan to create 86,000 new child care spaces in Ontario by 2026, with priority given to not-for-profit operators.

Child care costs in Ontario are among the highest in the country, with a full-time place for a toddler in Toronto typically costing $1,600 per month. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Getting a deal helps neutralize what could have been a politically difficult election issue for Ford’s Progressive Conservatives. Ontario’s campaign is due to begin in less than six weeks, with election day slated for June 2.

Yet the length of time it took to secure this deal will raise questions about what his government has accomplished while waiting to sign. Earlier, Ford said the delay was because his government wanted to get the best deal possible for the province.

At an independent press conference in Toronto on Sunday before the deal was signed, Ford said the $10.2 billion offered over five years was not enough to cut Ontario child care costs to 10 $ per day.

But when asked if something was blocking a deal, Ford replied, “No, I think we’re good. We have worked very closely with the federal government, they have been phenomenal partners as they always have been, and we look forward to the announcement.”

A provincial official told CBC News the deal gives Ontario “a lot more flexibility in how we can spend the money over the life of the deal compared to other provinces.” But the official did not provide details on what that flexibility includes.

“At the end of the day, a funding formula for PEI cannot be the same as a province like Ontario,” the official said. “Ontario has a fairly complex child care system.”

Some 550,000 families in Ontario incur child care costs, according to estimates from the province’s Office of Financial Accountability. (The Canadian Press)

It will likely be several weeks, if not months, before money starts flowing to child care centers to bring down the price parents pay. However, parents could potentially expect a retroactive refund of 25% of their childcare costs incurred from April 1 until the sticker price drops.

A sticking point for Ontario was whether Ottawa would continue to fund the child care program after the five-year deal expires in 2026.

The provincial official said Ontario “got funding outside of the five-year agreement,” but declined to say how much funding or for what period.

In its budget last year, the Trudeau government committed to providing permanent annual funding for child care beyond 2026. Ontario’s minimum annual share would be $2.9 billion. .

The federal plan for child care is presented as a way to stimulate the Canadian economy by making it easier for parents to return to the labor market after the birth of their children.

Toddler care is $70/day

Child care costs in Ontario are among the highest in the country, with a full-time place for a toddler in Toronto typically costing around $1,600 per month, or about $70 per day. Infant daycare costs more, and even preschool-aged daycare can incur fees approaching $60 a day.

The provincial official said a separate infrastructure agreement to create more child care spaces outside of the 86,000 planned in the main agreement is being discussed with Ottawa. “We’re getting there,” the official said.