If the province fails to negotiate a child-care agreement with the Trudeau government by the end of the fiscal year on March 31, Education Minister Stephen Lecce is refusing to say whether Ontario parents would lose out on thousands of dollars in retroactive rebates.
The federal government has pledged $10.2 billion to help Ontario reduce the average cost of child care by half by the end of 2022, with the goal of lowering it to $10 per day by 2026.
However, the Ford government has yet to negotiate an agreement with the federal government, leaving Ontario as the only province that has yet to sign on to the $30 billion agreement.
Meanwhile, parents in five other province and territories with deals are already realizing significant savings.
During a news conference on Tuesday morning Lecce was asked multiple times whether the window was closing for parents to receive rebates for a portion of fees paid since Jan. 1, as has been the case in a number of other jurisdictions.
Lecce did say that parents will see savings of 50 per cent in the first year of any agreement. But he did not say whether the end of the fiscal year later this month represents a deadline of sorts for rebating a portion of the fees parents have paid so far this winter.
His comments come after federal minister of families, children and social development Karina Gould told the Empire Club of Canada last week that Ontario was “running against the clock” to get a deal done prior to the end of the fiscal year.
“We’ve made clear to the federal government our requests and we’re working constructively with them to expeditiously land a deal that will provide savings in the immediate term, including a 50 per cent reduction in the first year, as all agreements have done. That will be the case in Ontario,” Lecce insisted on Tuesday.
So far many provinces have already begun putting the federal money towards reducing child-care fees, with a number of them slated to issue retroactive rebates to parents in the coming weeks.
As an example, Saskatchewan reduced feeds by 50 per cent as of November and also plans to issue parents rebate cheques retroactive to last July. In Nova Scotia fees were cut by 25 per cent retroactive to Jan 1 with parents able to either receive a credit or a rebate as of April. The province is also planning to reduce fees by another 25 per cent by the end of 2022.
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has also promised that parents will receive a rebate averaging $2,750 per child should his party form government after the June 2 election.
Speaking with reporters, Lecce said that his government remains committed to getting a deal done “as soon as possible so that we can provide certainty and savings to Ontario families.”
However, he said that the province needs “more investment” to eventually lower the cost of child care to an average of $10 a day.
“The long-standing position of the province is that we need flexibility and more investment to get to $10 (a day),” he said. “We want to get to $10, we need to get to $10 so that we can retain the same affordable options in this province that those east and west will as well.”
Source_ The Canadian Press