Ontario ECE and daycare workers could be looking at a significant pay decrease

Ontario’s Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) and daycare workers could be looking at a cut in their wages this Spring. With revisions being made to the provincial budget this month, many fear that the Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant will be dissolved. This grant was established in 2015 by the Ontario government to support childcare professionals and those working in a licensed child care setting.

The grant supports an increase of $2 per hour and 17.5% benefits. The average wage for childcare workers in Ontario is $15-$16 per hour and the grant would help close the wage gap between what is close to minimum wage versus livable wage.

“It is impossible to live in Toronto on minimum wage,” says local Downsview resident Maria Ojeda who works at a daycare in Richmond Hill. Her commute is longer than average and requires her to pay both TTC and YRT fares. She admits that this pay decrease could heavily impact her budget and the quality of her work-life. The $2 increase makes all the difference for many ECE workers in our community who work hard and deserve livable wages.

The Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant for Registered ECEs and child care workers was not only introduced to increase income security but to help close the gender wage gap. Around 1.4% of all ECE workers are men. Meaning that mostly women will be affected by this potential wage cut both directly and indirectly as childcare fees could increase as a result.

Ontario’s childcare fees are already some of the highest in Canada. Scrapping the $2 wage grant could mean loss of jobs, underpaid and overqualified staff, and ultimately closures or fewer licensed child-care spaces.  The OCBCC has launched a petition asking the Provincial government to continue the Wage Enhancement Grant, so far it has collected over 12,000 signatures.

As of now, the Ford government has not confirmed whether the Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant will continue past March 31, 2019.

Over 1 million students strike for the environment

Skipping school is not something that ought to be encouraged, but that is what 1.4 million students did world wide on Friday, March 15th. Young students from across the world, from New York to Berlin, to Mexico City, across all five continents, came out in the hundreds of thousands last week, in one of the biggest coordinated global demonstrations ever. 100,000 youth in Montreal alone participated.

They were taking part in what seems to be an unprecedented civic movement amongst youth. Most of the participants were not yet adults, but they are striking because they think that they do not have the luxury of waiting another 10 years. They are telling us that by then the planet may already be beyond the turning point of environmental salvation.

A recent study by the UN recently published gave us a collective deadline of 12 years globe wide to enact changes to our economy or be beyond the threshold of no return. We all know that people are having a significant negative effect on the environment. Some people may not care about it for different reasons. The oil industry wants to continue to burn fossil fuels, some people figure they may not be around for the worse part of the changes, others may not think the changes are serious. The youth participating think otherwise.

We hear a lot about millennials and how they vote and think differently than baby boomers. The next generation will have an even bigger contrast in values. Most millennials are actually in their 20s and 30s. The last millennials to enter University will do so this year and then a new group will start to be old enough to vote. The new generation, dubbed “generation Y” will have an even greater concern for the environment, because the facts and science demand it.

The reasons for this are clear. Study after study shows that man-made climate change is having a significant effect on our planet. It is the only planet we have. As a young person, feeling like they are not ever going to be able to buy a home may be difficult. It is more difficult now for a person with a median wage to buy a home than it was in the 1980s. It is hard to start a family that way. In fact, young people in significant numbers are starting to delay starting families for environmental reasons too, because they are worried about climate change.

We need to create a better future for our youth, and we need to listen. The youth are learning how to make change happen, the rest of us need to do better and catch up fast before it is too late.

“I want my son to be able to access the world around him” – what the new changes mean for children on the autism spectrum and their families

Angela is a proud mom to a 13-year-old boy named Misha – he loves ice-skating, summer camp, recently was the recipient of his school’s Perseverance Award and lives with severe autism. Because of ABA therapy, Misha developed the skills he needed to live an ordinary life.

“There’s this quote that really resonates me: parents of kids without special needs want their kids to live extraordinary lives, and parents of kids with special needs want their kids to be able to live ordinary lives,” Angela shares.

But it is going to get harder for kids like Misha to be able to live ordinary lives – last month Ontario Conservative Minister Lisa Macleod revealed plans to change the province’s autism program. These changes have been largely criticized by not only the autism community but by experts and professionals in the field.

Angela explains that her son has been on-and-off the waitlist for years since he was diagnosed at 18-months. Misha first came off the waitlist when he was 3 went back on when he was 6. He received intensive and life-changing ABA therapy – therapy that would have cost around $80k out of pocket per year. The new Conservative plan does not fully cover any child’s therapy but instead offers what many families consider to be insufficient relief.

Once Misha was back on the waitlist, Angela and her husband worked full-time to be able to afford his treatment. 100% of her paycheck and a significant portion of her husband’s helped pay for this speech and ABA therapy as well as homecare. Angela not only worked full-time job but also designed the programs, managed the staff, and stayed up every night until 2am to learn more about the best treatments.

Unfortunately, this lifestyle was unsustainable – Angela reached her breaking point. She left her job and took measures to address her own health. Her family cut corners and implemented an even-more stringent budget to make-ends-meet. Life was manageably unmanageable – a reality too common for families coping with autism who do not have access to the resources they need.

Luckily, in April 2018, Misha came off the waitlist. He was able to get the therapy he needs – lifting a huge weight off Angela’s shoulders.

“I want my son to be able to access the world around him,” Angela shares – and with the help of years of fully-funded therapy, he can. Recently, Misha attended an overnight school trip – a trip he could only take because of the accommodations made and also because of the ABA therapy he has had. Despite his severe autism, Misha can put on his own clothes, can communicate effectively and has developed coping mechanisms when he feels overwhelmed.

Many consider the waitlist to be less than ideal but also reference it as a source of hope – without the possibility of fully-funded therapy, life with autism is extraordinarily bleak. This is why Angela and a group of parents have organized – they attended rallies, contacted their MPPs and organized their community demanding the government to not go through with these changes.

Angela recently spoke with her MPP Roman Baber when she shared Misha’s story with him and urged him to stand up for her family and families like hers. To her disappointment, Angela was met with hollow words of sympathy and an MPP who was steadfast in supporting his government.

Angela notes that Misha is not in the worst position. Children who are younger than him and their families will have little support. The new program no longer fully covers the ABA therapy Misha received as a child.

The repercussions and the fallout of this cut will affect thousands. Children living with autism will be integrated into a school system that is not ready for them. Many will not be able to afford the ABA therapy that has changed Misha’s life and these families will have to cope with financial and personal strain. The reverberations will be felt by many – affecting everything from classrooms to the mental health of families who cannot access the supports they need.

“It’s infuriating when the Ford Government says they’re for the people – if you’re for the people, then is my child not a person?” Angela expressed.

 

*Edits have been: other versions of this article misspelled MPP Roman Baber’s name.