London, Ont. among worst Canadian cities for available child care: report

London, Ont., is one of the worst cities in Canada in providing child care coverage.

This is according to a report released earlier this month titled “Not done yet: $10-a-day child care requires addressing Canada’s child care deserts.”

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) ranked the Forest City in the bottom quarter of major cities across the country when it comes to available licensed child-care coverage, saying only 29 per cent, or roughly one out of 10 children, are able to find a child-care spot in the city.

Morna Ballantyne, executive director of Child Care Now, Canada’s national child care advocacy coalition, told Global News this creates a tough situation for parents.

“Just looking at the 2021 census figures, the population of London has increased by 10 per cent, and that’s about twice the provincial and national average,” she said. “More and more younger people are moving to London and having families and the supply of licensed child care has not kept up.

“It’s not a huge surprise that there is not enough licensed child care for all families who want it and need it.”

Last year, the province and the federal government first announced the $13.2-billion agreement to lower the cost of child care in Ontario to $10 a day by September 2025. In total, the province said fees for families will be reduced, on average, by 50 per cent.

At the time, Ontario was the only jurisdiction in Canada that had not signed with the federal government’s plan, which aims to reduce child-care fees to an average of $10 a day by 2026.

However, according to the report, 53 per cent of younger children in Ontario live in child-care deserts.

“The main reason for that is because governments have not taken on the responsibility of making sure that there is sufficient licensed supply,” Ballantyne said. “They’ve really left that responsibility for establishing licensed child-care centres to individual or non-profit organizations. That just doesn’t work, and it hasn’t worked for the last 50 years.”

Trevor Fowler, director of child care and early years for London, said in a statement to Global News that “the recruitment and retention of child care staff is a longstanding issue across the country,” highlighting the need for more available centres in the city.

“Operators tell us the lack of staff is impacting their ability to expand,” he said. “Additionally, reduced fees and a fast-growing population have created a surge in demand for licensed child care locally.

“We know how important it is for families to access child care, both for the children who attend and for the caregivers pursuing work and school opportunities.”

According to Fowler, the ministry is funding 2,080 additional licensed child-care spaces in London and Middlesex between 2022 and 2026, with a notional target of 266 additional spaces this year.

“In early April, city staff launched the 2023 Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care expansion intake process, making London one of the first service system managers in the region to do so,” he explained. “The good news is interest from operators in expanding is strong.

“We’re working closely with new and existing operators to support child-care expansion and move as quickly as possible, given the level of demand in the region.”

Ballantyne added that “municipal, provincial and federal governments should also be working together on some comprehensive strategies for expansion.”

“In London, for example, looking into where licensed child care could be located. Is there public lands? Are there public buildings where child care could be created? There has to be government funding for the capital expenditures,” she said. “Child care cannot be shouldered by individual providers.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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