How intense pressure from for-profit daycares has transformed Ontario’s rollout of $10-a-day child care — and sparked a political standoff that raises broader questions about the role of for-profit child care providers.
The debate centres on the for-profit childcare provider Oakridge Learning Group. It’s a controversial company, with an agenda that has angered the Ontario government and politicians from both major parties.
Since the government announced the Oakridge plan in 2015, more than 1,000 Oakridge classrooms have opened across the province. The company says its goal is to provide quality childcare to every eligible child in Ontario through the publicly funded program, but opponents say it has the potential to drive up costs, especially for parents who are struggling to find a suitable, low-cost child care provider.
The Oakridge plan is unique in that it is not tied to a school board, and it is managed by the province. Oakridge was initially approved by the province to open its first two classrooms, on the Oakridge Mall in Mississauga.
For the past year, Oakridge has been seeking to be allowed to expand beyond its initial two classrooms — but has been subject to a political standoff over its proposed expansion plans.
At issue is the company’s proposed expansion beyond its initial two classrooms, but also the overall number of Oakridge classrooms. The company is allowed to create up to 10 additional classrooms in the Peel Region on top of its two, and could open as many as 22 in total.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently announced in the legislature that both the Peel Region and the school board will be allowed to expand more Oakridge classrooms — and that any increase beyond the 10 is now out of his hands. But the province can still decide to take away funding, or limit the number of new Oakridge classrooms the company is allowed to open.
What all this means is that, in theory, Oakridge may open up to more than 10 additional preschool classrooms across Peel Region, but its expansion plans also raise broader questions about the role that for-profits play in the childcare sector.
“The government has made it pretty clear that, yes, it will allow Oakridge to open an additional 30 classrooms,” says