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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
General Manager, Children’s Services