By MPP Toby Barrett

 

Of all of our social, economic, and governmental institutions, none compares to the timeless and priceless institution of the family.

 

Families are at the heart of what makes our society strong and dynamic. Good strong families make strong communities, but as a society, we can do better to support and strengthen our households.

 

For example, the high cost of childcare in Ontario is a huge challenge for parents. Making childcare more affordable by supplementing the current federal Child Care Expense Deduction is a simple but effective way of giving a hand up to families.

 

At Mississauga’s Little Angels Christian Child Care Centre, Patrick Brown recently announced that Ontario’s Opposition favours a refundable childcare tax credit. The costs associated with public or private childcare, babysitters, before and after-school programs, or live-in caregivers, would be eligible so long as they allow the parents to work. The tax credit would refund up to 75 per cent of a family’s childcare expenses, or up to $6,750 per child.

 

However, funding for childcare costs can only be effective if a family is able to find affordable care for their child. As Opposition, we are committed to building 100,000 licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and preschool children. Mandating all new elementary schools include some form of childcare space, as well as drastically cutting the time for approvals for new child care spaces, would go a long way to improving Ontario’s childcare shortage.

 

For many families, finding an affordable place to live with access to the services they require can be extremely difficult. This is especially true for younger families. The province has neglected housing for many years and my colleagues and I are committed to immediately increasing housing supply. We will begin by ridding the excessive bureaucratic red tape associated with building approvals.

 

There’s no doubt families in Ontario are working harder, paying more, and getting less than in any other province in Canada. That is why government must do more to alleviate the tax burden on the middle class. We propose personal income tax cuts for the middle-class tax bracket of 22.5 per cent, a reduction of the income tax rate for the first bracket by 10 per cent and, an increase in the Ontario Sales Tax Credit by $100 a person.  We have a plan to reduce the average hydro bill by an additional 12 per cent.

 

After paying the bills and putting food on the table, there are families who simply cannot afford to sign their kids up for activities. Only 21 per cent of children in Grades 7-12 receive the recommended daily exercise. If we are serious about fitness and healthy living, government must set aside money for infrastructure like skating rinks, swimming pools, parks and more.

 

Ontario’s population is aging fast and families are making sacrifices to look after loved ones. As many as 2.6 million Ontarians provide unpaid care for family members, friends and neighbours. We advocate doubling of the Caregiver Tax Credit to help with the significant financial burden this sacrifice carries.

 

Caregivers of children with autism have been grappling with the politics of waitlists and funding shortages over the past several years. All children with autism must have access to funding.

 

Much more can be done to support and strengthen the family in Ontario.

 

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk