Lecce announces $234M to reopen licensed childcare centres

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, August 7, 2020. (Photo taken from YouTube.)

Ontario’s Education Minister has announced $234.6 million in provincial and federal funding to help licensed childcare centres reopen September 1.

The money is part of the $17 billion agreement between Ottawa and the provinces to help municipalities shore up budget shortfalls, invest in transit, and get the economy moving again. Ontario will receive $7 billion.

The money will help operators buy personal protective equipment, step up cleaning and disinfecting protocols in their facilities, and hire more staff.

Childcare has been a hot button issue for parents who are returning to work after COVID-19 shutdowns.

According to Statistics Canada, 35.6 per cent of parents and 56.1 per cent of mothers across Canada are worried about childcare.

“We know how crucial childcare is in relation to the reopening of Ontario’s economy,” said Lecce. “Working moms and dads across the province deserve access to affordable childcare, and you should have a choice about what type of care is available for your child.”

Teacher unions and opposition parties have criticized the Ontario government’s plan for a safe return to school for the province’s students. It does not include a cap on elementary class sizes.

Neither Premier Doug Ford nor Lecce would commit to revisiting the issue. Instead, they said the plan needs to be measured against the national benchmark. They told reporters Friday morning Ontario has the best policy in the country.

“We are the only province with a comprehensive masking strategy,” Lecce said. “We’re the only province in this country to provide funding, over $20 million, to do really robust testing of asymptomatic students. We are the only province to have 500 public health nurses in schools.”

Lecce did tell reporters the plan is “fluid.” If the evidence suggests it, it could be revised.