Province responds to plea for more childcare funding
MUSKOKA – The provincial government has opened its coffers for Muskoka’s children.
Rick Williams, commissioner of community services for the District of Muskoka, said the province has increased the district’s early learning child development funding by about $350,000 after staff and councillors complained about significant funding inequities.
“We had complained about Muskoka’s unfavourable level of funding in comparison to other municipalities and they’ve come out with a revised formula that treats us more fairly,” said Williams.
Muskoka had historically received less funding per child for childcare and children’s services than its counterparts in the northeast region of the province.
For example, Timiskaming had 1,365 children ages zero to four and received $3,918.34 per child from the province for childcare and children’s services in 2010-11.
And Cochrane had 4,315 children ages zero to four and received $1,290.05 per child.
That same year Muskoka had 2,325 children ages zero to four and received $911.70 per child.
Now, the playing field has been somewhat leveled.
“We’ll get about 11 per cent more than we had previously,” he said. “And some other municipalities were either frozen or adjusted backward to stabilize that.”
He said the funding increase was positive insofar as it would allow the district to serve more children in the region. The funds will support fee subsidies to help more children access childcare with some funding going toward special needs programs for children with disabilities, or low-income families.
Stephen Cairns, commissioner of finance and corporate services, noted at a district budget meeting that premier-designate Kathleen Wynne is focused on social services, which may have a positive impact on funding opportunities.
But John Klinck, district chair, said he thinks the province had made the decision to increase Muskoka’s childcare funding before Wynne was chosen as the new Liberal party leader.
“You sometimes wonder. Maybe they do listen,” said Klinck. “We’re delighted about that.”
But, said Klinck, based on comments Wynne has made it is clear she, too, has an interest in social services, which is important because social services are tied to the economy and jobs.
“Certainly, childcare is a spin-off of all of that,” he said.
He said the funding is needed in the region because there are many children here who need help. And there are many parents who need childcare support in order to work full-time.
Klinck noted that the funding increase coincides with relaxed rules on where and how the funding is spent, which means the district will be able to steer the funding where Muskoka’s children and their parents need it most.