On March 28, 2022, the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada signed the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement (CWELCC). The CWELCC program intends to:

  • reduce child care fees for eligible families;
  • increase access to high-quality, inclusive, licensed child care programs;
  • invest in the child care workforce.

Children’s Services is legislated to deliver the CWELCC program in Toronto, which expands the City’s role legislated under the Child Care and Early Years Act to manage child care services and early years programs and services. Children’s Services anticipates reporting on the early stages of CWELCC implementation during the first cycles of the Council term in 2023.

Current Status

City Objectives

  • CWELCC has a five-year phased implementation, which started in 2022.
  • With CWELCC, fee subsidies remain an important component of addressing affordability for families requiring financial assistance; additional investments will be required to meet the needs of vulnerable families.
  • Further, CWELCC establishes a wage floor for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) and includes wage enhancements; however, ongoing workforce recruitment and retention challenges may limit CWELCC implementation by 2026.
  • Toronto’s Licensed Child Care Growth Strategy will inform CWELCC implementation and bolster child care affordability, build capacity to meet demand, and support a thriving early years workforce.

Provincial Objectives

  • The Province has published a revised addendum to the Service Management and Funding Guideline outlining the requirements of CWELCC funding.
  • Financial impacts arising from the new Funding Guidelines will be incorporated into future Children’s Services operating and capital budget submissions.
  • The provincial target for 2022 is to lower the cost of child care by 25% for eligible children 0-6 years old in participating programs. For 2023, the provincial target is to lower the cost of child care by 50% for those eligible. For 2025, the provincial target is 10 dollar a day child care for eligible children.

Federal Objectives

  • The CWELCC is rooted in Canada’s Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework which is intended to work towards investments to increase quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity in early learning and child care. The shared long term goals of the Framework are to achieve early learning and child care systems that are high-quality; accessible, affordable and flexible; and inclusive. The Framework is complemented by the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework that reflects the unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children across Canada.

As part of the multilateral approach, federal and provincial governments continue to discuss implementation of the CWELCC. The City has asked to be included as part of the Canada-Ontario discussions but currently relies on the Province to provide updates on the status and outcomes of the ongoing discussions.

CWELCC in Toronto

In Toronto, 1,054 licenced child-care operators are eligible to opt-in or opt-out of CWELCC. This includes commercial, not-for-profit, public child care centres and licenced Home Child Care. As of November 2022, approximately 84 per cent of the total child care centres have opted into CWELCC, and approximately nine per cent of child care centres have opted out, while seven per cent have yet to respond. Eighty-eight per cent of Home Child Care Agencies have also opted in.

Background & Context

CWELCC implementation will build on Toronto’s Licensed Child Care Growth Strategy. The 2017 Council-approved strategy set a goal to provide licensed centre-based child care spaces for 50% of children aged 0-4 by 2026, and included strategic objectives regarding capacity, affordability, and workforce compensation.

By the end of Phase One (2021), the City reduced fees by 7.7% in the most expensive centres, increased RECE wages by 8.0% in lowest paid centres, and increased licensed centre-based spaces for children 0-4 years by 7.5%, to a total of 39,177. To support accessible and affordable programming, there is an ongoing need to provide additional child care fee subsidies and base funding to child care operators.

Truth, Justice & Reconciliation

The CWELCC program prioritizes access for Indigenous children and Indigenous-led child care and early years programming; however, more resources from federal and provincial governments are needed to support Indigenous organizations in relation to CWELCC and Indigenous early learning and child care more broadly.

Under the Government of Ontario’s Journey Together program, Children’s Services has worked with Indigenous partners to increase access to Indigenous-led, culturally-relevant child care spaces for Indigenous children and families. Currently, there are six Indigenous-led EarlyON Child and Family programs with a new location projected for 2023.

In addition, Indigenous-led providers offer mobile language, land based teachings, and fathering programs. These activities support the RAP Action #17 (Support the Revitalization of Indigenous Languages) and Action # 11 (Improve Community Safety and Well-being) via enhancing Indigenous-led programs that promote healthy child and family development. In addition, the Professional Learning Strategy for Toronto’s Early Years and Child Care Workforce includes Indigenous Worldviews as a pillar, aligning with RAP Action #2 (Enhance Indigenous Education).

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Access to affordable licensed child care is a significant challenge for Toronto families and particularly for equity deserving Torontonians. Enabling equitable access to high quality, affordable child care contributes to poverty reduction, supports increased workforce participation and economic recovery.

The CWELCC has the potential to bolster the City’s economic recovery efforts by supporting households living on single incomes and encouraging labour force participation for female caregivers impacted by pandemic-related employment freezes.

However, as CWELCC lowers child care fees, demand may increase substantially; with limited spaces, there may be a risk that equity-deserving families who are experiencing intersecting forms of marginalization are unable to access affordable spaces. In late 2022, the Province will engage with partners to develop a framework to facilitate access for Indigenous, Black, and equity-deserving children and guide the development of local inclusion plans.

Alongside CWELCC, Children’s Services is responding to Toronto’s Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black racism, by exploring options to increase access to high quality programs for Black children and families through Black-led EarlyONs. EarlyON is also participating in the Data for Equity pilot to enhance sociodemographic data collection. Through Every Child Belongs (ECB), the City has focused on improving services for Indigenous and Black families including service reviews to support Indigenous families and to support Black families with children with extra support needs; however, funding for these resources remains insufficient.

Key Contact

Shanley McNamee
General Manager, Children’s Services
Shanley.McNamee@toronto.ca, 416-392-8134

Additional Resources