By Goldie Ghamari, MPP for Carleton
As the Remembrance Day ceremonies in the Carleton riding were well-attended and very meaningful, I was reminded of a special program for our veterans that some of them may not be aware of.
Our Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices, and we need to be there when they need us. Veterans and their families can face many challenges including post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury, unemployment, and homelessness.
The Soldiers’ Aid Commission is our province’s way of saying to all Ontario Veterans and their families – thank you for your service.
The Lieutenant Governor established the Soldiers’ Aid Commission in 1915 through an Order in Council to help returning First World War Veterans and their families with problems they faced as they re-entered civilian life, such as finding work and housing.
Through the decades since its inception, the Commission has continuously supported Ontario’s Veterans and their families. Following the Second World War and the Korean War, the Commission expanded to provide supports and services to these returning Veterans and their families.
The Soldier’s Aid Commission Act, 2020 and accompanying regulations came into force on January 1, 2021. Through these modifications, eligibility for financial assistance from the Commission was further expanded to include all Ontario Veterans and their eligible family members regardless of where and when the Veteran served.
This means that veterans who served in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan in the last 30 years are eligible for the program.
The Soldiers’ Aid Commission provides financial assistance to Ontario’s eligible Veterans and their families in financial need. For Veterans receiving social assistance, funding from the Soldiers’ Aid Commission is in addition to other federal government programs someone may be eligible for and any financial assistance received from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). It will not impact their eligibility for social assistance or the amount of their monthly payment.
The Commission provides financial assistance of up to $2,000 over a 12-month period per household for:
– health-related items and services to support physical and mental health, such as hearing aids, glasses, prescription and dental needs
– housing-related items such as repairs, moving costs, furniture, and replacement or repair of roof and furnace
– assistance to secure or maintain housing
– specialized equipment and assistive devices to support mobility, accessibility or health and safety
– personal items, services, and expenses to support basic needs, such as clothing and personal care products
– employment-related supports to remove barriers to employment or improve employability, such as work clothing such as work boots, short-term courses to improve employability
An eligible Veteran is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who has completed basic training and was released from service. Eligible family members are:
– the spouse of a Veteran, including the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran
– the child of a Veteran or Veteran’s spouse who is financially dependent, including the child of a deceased Veteran or Veteran’s spouse.
Veterans can apply through the Royal Canadian Legion or Veterans Affairs Canada.
Also, we can direct Veterans to our new, dedicated webpage — ontario.ca/Veterans — which gives Veterans and their families an easy way to find and access supports related to housing, employment, finances, mental health, and more.
For more than 100 years, the Soldiers’ Aid Commission has supported Ontario’s Veterans and their families. In 2021, our government expanded the program to include Veterans of all ages in financial need, regardless of when or where they served.
Ontario Announces Comprehensive Strategy to Boost Child Care Workforce and Protect Children
The Ontario government is launching the most significant and comprehensive Child Care Workforce Strategy in the province’s history. Supported by funding through the Canada-Ontario Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, Ontario’s plan will deliver increased wages to Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) and a multipronged strategy to recruit and retain qualified educators.
The government of Ontario is also taking action to further protect the safety of children by requiring all licensed child care operators to implement a Safe Arrival and Dismissal Policy by January 1, 2024. This will ensure that when a child does not arrive at the licensed child care program or is not picked up as expected, parents will be informed in line with existing protocols within Ontario’s publicly funded schools. This closes a gap that will protect children from exceptional and preventable tragedies.
After extensive consultation, the province has developed a workforce strategy that responds to the issues and priorities of the sector. Starting in 2024, initiatives in the strategy include:
- Increasing the starting wage for RECEs employed by child care operators enrolled in the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system to $23.86/hour in 2024 from the planned $20/hour
- Extending the eligibility ceiling for a $1/hour increase so more RECEs can benefit
- Supporting entry into the profession and career development
- Cutting red tape for employers and providing more flexibility in staffing their programs
- Launching a promotional campaign to bolster awareness and value of the child care profession
This wage enhancement builds on actions taken by the province through the introduction in 2022 of a new wage floor for RECEs working in settings participating in the CWELCC system which includes annual $1/hour wage increases beginning in 2023.
The announcement builds on Ontario’s leadership having already delivered on a multitude of commitments to Ontario families under the CWELCC system, including a 50 per cent reduction on average in child care fees representing $6,000 to $10,000 in savings per child, the ongoing creation of 86,000 new licensed spaces, and support for parental choice in child care.
Investments from the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada in the child care and early years system for 2024 will total nearly $4 billion. Funding will support the implementation of previously announced fee reductions, workforce supports, and other measures. This investment represents a significant increase of $42 million over 2023 and will ensure Ontario is providing competitive starting wages for RECEs in Canada, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to further valuing and ultimately retaining this critical workforce.
The province remains committed to ensuring the safety of Ontario’s youngest learners and the success of the CWELCC system. We will continue to work with municipalities and the sector to ensure affordable child care is available in communities where it is needed most. As the strategy rolls out, Ontario will track and monitor the strategy’s impact on RECE recruitment and retention.
- In March 2022, Ontario secured a six-year, $13.2-billion agreement with the federal government which will lower fees for families to an average of $10 a day. Ontario aims to reach that target by September 2025. In December 2022, as part of that agreement, Ontario announced a targeted plan to create thousands of new licensed child care spaces, with a focus on increasing access to Ontario families.
- The province continues to invest $203 million per year through the Wage Enhancement Grant/Home Child Care Enhancement Grant to support higher staff wages – including RECEs working in settings that have opted-out of CWELCC and non-RECEs.
- The Ontario government has streamlined the application process for new child care operators. When they apply for a licence, they will learn about their eligibility for CWELCC funding before investing heavily in becoming licensed. The applicants will also have to submit key municipal approvals with their application.
- There are currently more than 5,500 licensed child care centres, 145 licensed home child care agencies, and around 473,000 licensed spaces in Ontario.
My office is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. If you require assistance on any matter, please contact me at any time. My staff and I will be happy to assist. Even if it’s not a provincial issue, I’ll make sure to connect you with the proper office.
Your voice at Queen’s Park