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As parents celebrate lower child-care fees, will provinces keep up with demand?

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child-care fees

Nour Alideeb and her partner are trying to decide what to do with the hundreds of dollars they’re now saving on child care for their two-year-old son.

Parents are seeing their child-care fees reduced by 50 per cent, on average, as part of the federal government’s early learning and childcare agreements with provinces and territories.

For Alideeb and her family in Mississauga, Ont., that means about $700 in savings each month.

“Seeing the fees come down, it’s like, oh my goodness, I can start saving for his school, we can put money away for maybe home renovation,” she said.

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“There’s just so many possibilities now that you’re able to save that money or put it towards other things.”

The Liberal government earmarked $30 billion over five years in the 2021 budget to set up a long-promised national child-care program.

Under the agreements between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, fees will come down to $10 a day, on average, by 2026.

As parents breathe a sigh of relief, however, some in the child-care industry are ringing alarm bells over concern there won’t be enough spaces to meet demand.

“What I’m worried about is staffing,” said Lyndsay Macdonald, a professor of early childhood education at Humber College and a co-ordinator with the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario.

A shortage of early childhood educators has been an ongoing issue, leading to long wait-lists even before the national program was rolled out. Now, as fees fall, rising demand might make it even more challenging to secure adequate staffing.

The program stipulates that provinces must create new spaces with the money they’re receiving from the federal government. In total, the deals are supposed to add about a quarter of a million new spots across the country.

But it might not be enough.

Ontario’s financial accountability officer published a report in November warning increased demand will leave the province short more than 220,000 spots under current expansion plans.

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said the federal government has allocated money to attract and retain workers.

“All provinces and territories have the opportunity to provide additional resources to support the workforce,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Workers and advocates say wages are a key problem. According to the 2021 census, early childhood educators and assistants made an average of $26,760 a year.

That’s making the job unappealing, said Macdonald.

“My students are seeing, wow, this job requires a lot of professionalism and a lot of responsibility and a lot of work — hard work,” she said.

Some provinces have raised wages, while others have committed to creating wage grids.

A report published by the University of Toronto’s Atkinson Centre in April highlights the recruitment and retention challenges. It found 62 per cent of child-care centre operators in Canada had to recruit staff in the last two years and 82 per cent had difficulty hiring staff with the necessary qualifications.

It also found that in Ontario, the majority of early childhood educators who resign are seeking employment outside of a licensed child-care centre.

Marni Flaherty, the interim CEO of the Canadian Child Care Federation, said she wants to see a stronger commitment to the workforce, with pay and career development playing a role to maintain it.

“It’s really hard to build a system of people only coming in, working for a few years, and then going to doing something else,” Flaherty said.

Beyond that, Flaherty said ensuring there are enough spaces also means working on the local level to make sure resources are being allocated well.

Flaherty said that includes thinking about things like the placement of child care centres in neighbourhoods, the optimal size of operators and the supporting infrastructure in communities.

“At this point, we should be looking at … how are we going to make this happen?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2023.

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Noticing a labour shortage? Here's what's really going on in Ontario's job market – CBC.ca

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The vast majority of workers in Ontario haven’t experienced anything quite like it their entire working lives: a labour market tilted in their favour. 

Statistics show unemployment running as low as it’s ever been, record-high job vacancy numbers and unprecedented labour force participation rates.

The labour market is “the tightest it’s been in half a century, and it’s not unique to Ontario,” says economist Armine Yalnizyan. “It’s happening all through the global north, wherever there was a baby boom after the Second World War.” 

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“There’s a traffic jam of employers looking to hire,” says Brendon Bernard, senior economist at Indeed, a job-search website. 

This article launches a year-long project by CBC Toronto called “Workers Wanted.” It will delve into what’s happening in the job market in the GTA and around the province, the impact on employers and employees, possible solutions to the labour crunch and how the changing workforce affects our daily lives. Do you have a story to tell? Get in touch via the callout at the bottom of this story.

This profound shift in the job market has implications for just about everybody, whether you’re an ordinary worker, an employer, a political leader, or someone waiting to get care in a hospital or service in a restaurant. 

It could bring about significant changes in the world of work — from recruitment tactics to workplace culture to salaries — but that largely depends on how governments and employers respond. 

Two hospital workers wearing scrubs walk in a hospital hallway.
The federal government is allowing certain employers, including hospitals and the food services industry, to fill up to 30 per cent of jobs with temporary foreign workers. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Premier Doug Ford spoke of “endless employment opportunities” in Ontario during a news conference in Brampton last month.

“You could walk down every street in this province and find a job in every single sector. We need 380,000 people to fill the existing jobs that we have right now,” Ford said.

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show 372,000 job vacancies in Ontario during the third quarter of 2022. That’s nearly double the average number of vacancies (195,000) reported during the three years leading up to 2020.

But how good are these jobs? For a fuller picture of what’s really going on in the labour market, take a deeper look into what Statistics Canada found about the current vacancies: 

  • 60 per cent of the job vacancies in Ontario required no more than high school education, paying on average less than $20 an hour. 

  • Nearly 200,000 jobs required less than one year of experience.

  • More than one-third of the job vacancies were in sales and service.

Still, the overall dynamics of the job market in the province differ substantially from how things were before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Politicians and business leaders sometimes describe what’s happening as a worker shortage, but that framing doesn’t sit well with some observers. 

“I’m not sure that it’s so much a shortage of workers as a shortage of employers that are willing to pay the wages necessary to get people to work for them,” said Don Wright, former head of the public service in British Columbia, now a fellow with the Public Policy Forum think tank. 

Bernard also pushes back against the use of the term “worker shortage,” saying it has negative connotations and lacks precision. 

“I tend to focus more on the balance of strength and power in the labour market when it comes to job seekers versus employers,” Bernard said in an interview. 

The way this balance of power has shifted should force employers to shift their mindset, particularly when it comes to compensation, says Yalnizyan, the Atkinson Foundation’s fellow on the future of work. 

“They’ve had 40 years of labour surpluses and they still think workers are a dime a dozen,” Yalnizyan said in an interview. 

Economist Armine Yalnizyan, the Atkinson Foundation’s fellow for the future of work, says the sectors with the greatest difficulty finding workers tend to be the ones with the poorest pay and working conditions. She says those employers need to rethink their approach to hiring. (Christian Patry/CBC)

“Businesses that are raising wages and improving working conditions, offering more flexibility in how people take time off or offering more benefits, those places are finding it much easier to fully staff their businesses.” 

Not all employers are prepared to do that. 

Making current staff work more

Even among Canadian businesses that considered labour force shortages to be an obstacle, less than two-thirds planned to offer current employees a wage increase, less than half planned to boost wages to lure new hires, and only one in five planned to enhance employee benefits, according to a Statistics Canada report last year. 

So how do companies intend to deal with the labour crunch? That same report found that half of all businesses said they expected current management and staff to work more. 

The federal government’s primary solution is to bring in more workers from outside the country. 

The Trudeau government quietly launched its biggest-ever expansion of Canada’s temporary foreign worker (TFW) program last year.

A Help Wanted sign.
The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show 372,000 job vacancies in Ontario, nearly double the average in the three years before the COVID-19 pandemic began. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The changes mean that temporary foreign workers can now make up 30 per cent of an employer’s workforce in certain sectors, including accommodation and food services, construction, some manufacturing industries, nursing homes and hospitals.

In all other sectors, employers can now hire up to 20 per cent of their staff from the TFW program, double the previous cap of 10 per cent. 

Hiring more temporary foreign workers 

Employers leapt at the opportunity. 

Approvals to fill Ontario jobs with temporary foreign workers more than doubled in the July-September 2022 period compared with the same months in the previous year, according to the most recently available federal statistics

In sales and service occupations in Ontario, the number of approvals to hire temporary foreign workers tripled. 

Wright — who describes himself as “a big proponent of healthy levels of immigration” — questions the wisdom of this approach. 

“This notion of, ‘I’m a business, I can’t get workers to work at the wage I want to pay, therefore the government should fix that problem,’ I just think is really misguided,” Wright said in an interview.

For its part, the Ford government is also looking at other ways to expand Ontario’s labour pool, such as streamlining accreditation for certain foreign-trained professionals and tradespeople, or expanding programs designed to help the long-term unemployed get into the workforce. 

The labour crunch is undoubtedly most acute in certain sectors of the Ontario economy. You can see that measured by the job vacancy rate: the number of unfilled jobs as a percentage of the employed labour force. 

From 2017 through 2019, Ontario’s job vacancy rate averaged 3.1 per cent across all sectors. Over the past year, it’s averaged 5.3 per cent. 

Particularly high job vacancy rates are currently found in restaurants and bars (10.2 per cent), nursing homes (8.5 per cent), truck transportation (8 per cent) and building construction (7.7 per cent), according to Statistics Canada.

If the Bank of Canada gets its way, the labour market will shift back toward employers. 

“Companies continue to tell us they’re having trouble attracting all the workers they need. That’s a symptom of an overheated economy,” governor Tiff Macklem said Wednesday in a news conference following the Bank of Canada’s announcement of another increase to its benchmark interest rate

“Part of rebalancing demand and supply in the economy is rebalancing the labour market,” said Macklem.

“We do expect to see some cooling of the labour market. We expect it to come into better balance.”

How are you affected by the labour crunch? Let us know in the form below.

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More than 1,000 New Brunswickers report adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca

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More than 1,000 New Brunswickers have had an adverse reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than a quarter of them were considered “serious,” according to the Department of Health.

A total of more than two million vaccines have been administered in the province, putting the incidence at roughly 0.06 per cent.

Spokesperson Adam Bowie did not provide any information about the nature of the reactions, but the Public Health Agency of Canada defines an adverse event as “any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunization.” It isn’t necessarily causally related to the vaccine.

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The adverse event may be any:

  • Unfavourable or unintended sign (for example: skin rash).
  • Abnormal laboratory finding.
  • Symptom.
  • Disease.

An event is considered serious if it:

  • Results in death.
  • Is life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
  • Requires in-patient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization.
  • Results in persistent or significant disability/incapacity.
  • Results in a congenital anomaly/birth defect.

Bowie did not provide a breakdown of reactions by type of vaccine or by ages, either.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a possible link between ischemic strokes in people aged 65 and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 bivalent vaccine, which is designed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced by a blockage or clot. This prevents the brain tissue from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive.

“Although the totality of the data currently suggests that it is very unlikely that the signal in VSD [vaccine safety datalink] represents a true clinical risk, we believe it is important to share this information with the public,” the U.S. health officials had said.

Monitoring the situation closely

New Brunswick Public Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada are all aware of the U.S. report, issued on Jan. 13, based on their vaccine adverse event reporting surveillance system, said Bowie.

“So far, these safety concerns have not been raised through other vaccine safety monitoring systems in the United States, or in other countries — including Canada,” he said in an emailed statement.

“It should be noted the CDC did not recommend any changes to vaccination practices at this time, and that these adverse events have not yet been confirmed to have been caused by the vaccines administered.

If New Brunswick Public Health’s recommendations regarding the safety or suitability of this vaccine were to change, that information would be communicated to the public.– Adam Bowie, Department of Health spokesperson

“Additional analysis and reviews must be completed to further explore the causes of these reactions and that data is used as part of the continuous monitoring of the safety of these vaccines.”

Still, New Brunswick and federal health officials are “monitoring this situation closely,” said Bowie.

“If New Brunswick Public Health’s recommendations regarding the safety or suitability of this vaccine were to change, that information would be communicated to the public,” he said.

‘Less than five’ strokes after bivalent reported in Canada

As of Jan. 1, more than seven million doses of mRNA bivalent vaccines have been administered in Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada say they’ve not observed any elevated risks or safety signals for thromboembolic or vascular events following the administration of these vaccines, noted Bowie.

“Less than five” reports of ischemic stroke following the administration of an mRNA bivalent vaccine have been submitted to the federal bodies to date, he said. Only one of these involved a Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine for a person aged 65 years or older.

In New Brunswick, 1,148 adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccines have been reported to the Department of Health, from the 2,028,684 total doses administered between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 14, 2023, said Bowie.

“Of those, 313 events were labelled serious in nature,” he said.

Benefits continue to outweigh risks

“Evidence indicates that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease,” the federal website states.

Across Canada, of the 96,432,067 COVID-19 vaccines administered to date, adverse events have been reported by 53,611 people. That’s about six people out of every 10,000 people vaccinated who have reported one or more adverse events.

Of those, 10,565 adverse events were considered serious in nature, an incidence of 0.01 per cent.

“Citizens should be aware that vaccine providers are legally required to report any adverse events in New Brunswick under the Public Health Act, and immunization data is regularly monitored to ensure that any unusual safety trends would be identified quickly,” said Bowie.

Federal health officials also review data from provinces and territories across the country to identify any new or emerging trends, he said.

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WHO decision on COVID-19 emergency won't effect Canada's response: Tam – CP24

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OTTAWA – On Monday, exactly three years from the day he declared COVID-19 to be a global public health emergency, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will decide whether to call it off.

But declaring an end to the “public health emergency of international concern” would not mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat. It will also not do much to change Canada’s approach.

“In Canada, we’re already doing what we need to do,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in her most recent COVID-19 update.

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She said the WHO discussion is important but COVID-19 monitoring and public health responses are not going to end. That includes continued surveillance of cases, particularly severe illness and death, and vaccination campaigns.

The WHO’s emergency committee, which was struck in 2020 when COVID-19 first emerged as a global health threat, voted Friday on whether to maintain the formal designation of a public health emergency.

Tedros will make the final call Monday based on the advice the committee gives him.

He warned earlier this week that he remains concerned about the impact of the virus, noting there were 170,000 deaths from COVID-19 reported around the world in the last two months.

“While I will not pre-empt the advice of the emergency committee, I remain very concerned by the situation in many countries and the rising number of deaths,” he said Jan. 24.

“While we are clearly in better shape than three years ago when this pandemic first hit, the global collective response is once again under strain.”

He is worried not enough health-care workers or seniors are up to date on vaccinations, that access to antivirals is limited and that health systems around the world remain fragile following three years of pandemic strain.

In Canada, there was a noticeable rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over Christmas and early in January but all are trending down again. Tam said there were no surges of the virus anywhere in Canada, though the latest variant of Omicron was being watched closely.

Federal surveillance data shows more than 30 people are still dying of COVID-19 every day, and hundreds of people are still hospitalized.

The formal designation of the global public health emergency was made on Jan. 30, 2020, when 99 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases were still restricted to China.

The decision was made to declare an emergency because human-to-human transmission was starting to occur outside China, and the hope was that by designating an emergency it could prompt a public health response that could still limit the impact of COVID-19.

That did not happen. On March 11, 2020, Tedros declared a global pandemic, practically begging countries to do more to slow it down.

The declaration of a pandemic meant that there was exponential growth in the spread of the virus.

By WHO terminology, a “public health emergency of international concern” is the highest formal declaration and the one which triggers a legally binding response among WHO member countries, including Canada.

It is what is done when a health threat is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected,” when it carries global public health implications and may require “immediately international action.”

A designation prompts the WHO director-general to issue recommendations for member countries including increased surveillance to identify new cases, isolating or quarantining infected people and their close contacts, travel measures such as border testing or closures, public health communications, investments in research and collaboration on treatments and vaccinations.

Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious diseases physician and the director adult infectious diseases residency training at Western University in London, Ont., said to his mind the WHO should end the global emergency designation even though the pandemic itself is not over.

“I don’t know that we should continue to call it an emergency,” he said. “I hope they say that we’re going to bring it down a notch.”

Elsayed said for vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat, but for most people there are far bigger threats, including suicide. He said with limited health resources, COVID-19 needs to be put in its proper place alongside other health issues.

Children, in particular, said Elsayed, are much more at risk from influenza and RSV than COVID-19 in wealthy countries, and from food insecurity and the lack of access to clean water in many developing nations.

Tam said regardless of what WHO decides, Canada won’t stop monitoring the evolution of the virus that causes COVID-19, including for new variants that may require adjustments to vaccines or other treatments.

She also said we must continue to monitor the ongoing developments in long COVID.

“We mustn’t, I think, let go of the gains that we’ve had in the last several years,” she said.

“I think whatever the decision is made by the director-general of WHO, I think we just need to keep going with what we’re doing now.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

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