ESPANOLA—The Ontario government announced the creation of 53,000 new affordable childcare spaces by December 2026 after finally signing onto a federal childcare program that aims to lower fees paid by families to $10 a day. Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) will see 183 new spaces created in its catchment area—but in times of ever-increasing shortages of early childhood educators, getting those spaces in place is not as simple as flicking a switch.
“Staff are in the process of reviewing the Directed Growth and Access and Inclusion Framework details provided by the Ministry of Education,” said DSB CAO Donna Stewart. “We will be reviewing community demographic data and consulting with providers and community partners in early January to determine the best path forward recognizing the need to balance directed growth and provider capacity as it relates to workforce challenges to ensure we develop a system that supports increased access and inclusion for families in our district.”
Still, despite those challenges, Ms. Stewart characterized the province’s December 18 announcement as good news.
“It is welcome news that additional spaces will be supported in our community,” she said, “the hurdle will continue to be workforce recruitment and retention.”
There is a strong imperative to getting those affordable childcare spaces in place, given the labour shortages that are currently plaguing just about every sector in the Canadian economy. Minster of Education Stephen Lecce noted in making the announcement that the reduction in childcare costs can be substantial. “We are delivering savings directly to families while increasing access to child care spaces in communities small and large,” he said in a release. “Our government is making childcare affordable—with savings averaging between $6,000 to $10,000 per child by the end of this year—and investing in new spaces that will benefit parents for years to come. With the cost of living rising across the country, the Ontario government is increasing access to childcare spaces and delivering needed financial relief for families.”
According to Minister Lecce, those new spaces will be allocated to communities across Ontario using a model that “incorporates demographics, socio-economic indicators and existing licensed childcare capacity. The new spaces will be part of the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system and includes a mix of not-for-profit and for-profit centres, a key priority of the Government of Ontario to respect and ultimately provide families with choice and flexibility. Additionally, the province will enhance the availability of flexible models of care for a changing economy and labour market – for example, childcare spaces that are available on weekends and overnight to support people who work shifts.”
Further, to ensure those new childcare spaces are also in locations and for populations most in need, including children with special needs and in Indigenous and Franco-Ontarian communities, the province is also launching a $213 million grant program for new and existing operators. Those one-time grants, prioritizing regions with historically low rates of space availability, will help childcare operators offset the initial costs of expanding or creating spaces, such as purchasing equipment or renovating facilities.
DSB was among the first 11 service providers to open applications for childcare rebates in the province.