We are so very proud of TEECC member Sara Ehrhardt. Sara presented a very moving and very honest speech at the Municipality of Toronto Deputations. Please find below her speech and video coverage:
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My name is Sara Ehrhardt and I've been living near coxwell and Dundas since 2015.
I'm a mother to 20month old Clarence who's in the room tonight.
The child care and early years situation in the east end of Toronto has hit crisis proportions - insufficient licensed, high-quality spaces for the growing number families in the area, prices well above the median for the city, and no real information about what is being done to plan for adequate early childhood services for our growing community.
The cuts currently being proposed to child care and recreation under consideration in this budget will hurt Toronto's east end and take us in the wrong direction. In particular the cuts to child care subsidies, removal of the facility supports to tdsb for child care spaces, and the withdrawal of recreation programs fro SH Armstrong/Duke of Connaught pool are all areas of concern.
The cuts to pool programming in our neighbourhood is particularly confusing to me - my son and I were lucky enough to get into swim classes this winter - I say lucky because all the swim programming in our neighbourhood is waitlisted. In 2012 this council made the decision to keep our pool and I cannot understand how, with the baby boom taking place right now we would get rid of this programming when the waitlists demonstrate it is in such high community demand. Our very own Olympic medalist penny oleksiuk is a neighbourhood role model for our children yet we will be offering them fewer opportunities to try to swim like her. It is particularly tragic that the year of Canada's 150th anniversary will be remembered in east Toronto as a time recreational programming was cut. This goes against what we as residents want for our children and it goes against the city's own poverty reduction strategy. being a lakeside community it also goes against common sense safety considerations for our children.
How can we expect other levels of government to be working with us to support our children if we ourselves are cutting back and downloading to tdsb at a time of obvious growth in young families in this neighbourhood?
This past year, parents in our community joined together under the banner Toronto East Enders for Child Care (TEECC) to demand action on these issues.
We are a group of parents in Toronto's east end who are passionate about improving child care and early years services for children aged 0-12. We have three goals: more high-quality spaces in our neighbourhood; an early years and child care system that is affordable for families, and better information about our child care centres. We see fair compensation for child care workers and adequate support for newcomers and low-income families in our communities as going hand-in-hand with these goals.
The current system is seriously broken. A freeze on child care subsidies in our community, the closing of an east Toronto child care subsidy office, school over-crowding, insufficient in-school before and after school care, over-capacity parent-child resource centres, long wait times for early childhood health specialists through Toronto public health, and a hands-off approach around child care planning and day care wait-list management are only a few of the challenges that our community is facing as we attempt to access quality, affordable child care.
We are calling on all levels of government, and our city through this budget in particular, to make child care a priority in 2017, and to ensure that growing neighbourhoods like the Toronto's east end are prioritized in any efforts to enhance child care, early education, and family services. We would ask that the budgets for child care supports and recreation programming including swimming for children be maintained in this budget. I and many other residents would be willing to pay more in property taxes to get the child care and recreation services a modern city like Toronto requires for all families to succeed.
I would ask that the city go beyond this and look to actually take forward-looking steps to improve the child care offerings across the city and in our east end neighbourhoods. A low-cost but much needed start would be the creation of a consolidated city child care waitlist, modelled off the successful online system in the city of Ottawa.
I thank you for your time and for making child care and children's recreation programming a priority in this budget by maintaining budget levels in these crucial areas. Thank you.