Article

Child Care: You Make the Difference (From The General Secretary)

Gene Lewis

The federal government’s decision to cancel the child care agreements signed with Ontario and other Canadian provinces is a shameful act. It is a blow to all of us working for the establishment of a national system of early childhood education for our children.

For many years ETFO has been a member of coalitions fighting to establish the kind of day care system that the federal-provincial agreements would have created: the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (ETFO President Emily Noble is a CTF vice-president).

We work with these organizations to improve child care because we care about children and their education. Research shows that the first years of their lives are critical for children’s intellectual and emotional development. The gains children make in these early years help them throughout their school years. The Ontario government’s expansion of its Best Start program is in jeopardy. That successful model, located in schools, integrates early education provided in junior and senior kindergarten with licensed child care. It depends on federal funding.

The federal-provincial agreements would have provided $4 billion in federal funding over five years to set up a national child care and early education system, the first new national social program in many years. It would have created 25,000 additional child care spaces in Ontario. The need is great: in this province 70 per cent of parents with children under the age of six require child care.

In the January election that gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper his very tenuous minority, almost two-thirds of Canadians voted for other parties committed to creating a national child care program. The organizations we support have been working hard to press this fact on our newly elected leaders. It is a fact of political life, however, that coalitions and lobby groups don’t vote. Public campaigns can draw attention to issues. Their job is to motivate us as individuals to take action. And that is what each of us must do now. The only thing that will convince the Prime Minister to reinstate child care agreements is the pressure exerted by hundreds of thousands of parents, grandparents, teachers, and concerned individuals. People like you and me. It is our individual pressure on our federal MPs that can have an impact.

Code Blue, the campaign of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, is currently distributing an open letter to the Prime Minster through its website www.buildchildcare.ca. Here are three things you can do to support your children, your grandchildren, your students.

  1. Sign the open letter to Stephen Harper and provincial premiers urging them to honour the federal-provincial agreements on child care.
  2. Contact your local MP and MPP: call, write a letter, send an e-mail. Encourage your friends to do likewise.
  3. Raise awareness in your community by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Lobby groups and unions make a tremendous difference in our society, but it is the voices of individual citizens that sway politicians the most. It will take your personal voice to save Canada’s national child care program. Is the future welfare of Canada’s children an issue important enough to get you to act? I hope your answer is yes. Millions of children are depending on you to make a difference.

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