Some days I listen to politicians and wonder what colour the sky is in their world.
Toronto Mayor John Tory and whole host of councillors are upset that the province has said they won’t fulfil a promise made by the Wynne government because the province is broke and can’t afford it.
The city’s basic argument is that they don’t have the money to do what they want so the province needs to pay. It’s like two guys with no money arguing about who will cover the bill on their maxed out credit card.
I’m talking about 51 new daycare centres to be established in schools throughout Toronto and run by the city. The province has promised to provide the capital costs with establishing these and other municipal centres across the province but says there is no money for day-to-day operations.
The Wynne Liberals promised these operating funds without having the money to actually follow through. Now the city says that without the money, 3,000 daycare spaces will not be feasible.
I’m not going to cry too hard over this.
It’s not that I don’t think child care is important or understand that can be incredibly expensive but I have several problems with the debate as it presented.
First off, we are talking about daycares centres run by the City of Toronto to benefit people that live in Toronto. Why should people in Sudbury, Kingston or London be helping to subsidize the operating expenses of daycare in Toronto?
Secondly, as the city’s own auditor showed last year, the city-run facilities are among the most expensive to operate.
According to the April 2018 report, the average cost for a child under the age of four in a city run centre was $1,988 per month compared to $1,440 in a not-for-profit centre contracted by the city. That’s more than $500 a month or $6,000 a year in extra costs.
Not only does the city pay significantly higher wages, it has much higher administrative costs.
The auditor found a whole series of possible cost-saving measures that could have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in annual savings, enough to pay for thousands of additional spaces at no cost to the taxpayers.
The city says it is working to place more children with subsidies in not-for-profit centres but there is still much more that could be done.
Finally, we are arguing about one kind of daycare, the kind favoured by activists, certain types of politicians and, of course, bureaucrats. Strangely, it isn’t the kind favoured by parents.
Parents want choice; they want flexibility.
I’ve been following this issue for more than 15 years now. Poll after poll shows parents want the ability to choose the style of care that suits their family and sometimes, actually often, that means using a home daycare run by someone in the neighbourhood that they know and trust.
It’s normally a cheaper model; it is normally a more flexible model.
But it often doesn’t qualify for the grants and subsidies being debated at City Hall.
Thankfully for parents, it does qualify for the help provided by the Ford government at Queen’s Park and the Trudeau government on Parliament Hill.
The Trudeau government transformed the Universal Child Care Benefit into the Canada Child Tax Benefit and increased payments to parents significantly. Best of all, they still allow parents to decide how and where to use that money to look after their children.
Similarly, the Ford government enhanced the child-care rebate parents can claim. Low-income households can claim up to 75% of expenses up to $9,000. Middle-income households can claim rebates of about 60% of their expenses.
This is where most families are when it comes to child care and it is where they want to be. They want governments to help them defray the costs of the care they choose.
That isn’t what is being debated at City Hall, a place too often detached from reality.