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In what some are calling the largest child care rally here in decades, more than 200 people—including parents, their children and early childhood educators—marched from Jericho Beach Park to Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office on Saturday to demand affordable public child care in B.C.

The event, organized by labour and community organizations, featured a short and spirited rally in front of the CUPE BC community events trailer, followed by a stroller parade to Clark’s nearby MLA office. There, before a cluster of television news cameras, dozens of mothers and their children stuck personal messages calling for affordable child care on the office window.

Worth every penny

Earlier at the rally, several speakers noted the lack of value that the BC Liberal government places on child care workers.

CUPE’s speaker, Local 1936 vice-president Sheryl Burns, praised childcare workers for their dedication, despite being among the lowest paid workers in the public sector. “These workers provide nurturing, high quality care in a public service setting,” she said, “despite increasingly limited resources and a profound lack of appreciation by the federal and provincial governments for the hard work they do.”

BC Federation of Labour Irene Lanzinger said that the BC Liberal government’s failure to invest in public child care “has left B.C.’s children without the quality of care they deserve.” BCGEU treasurer Stephanie Smith said the current system fails to adequately value the role of professional Early Childhood Educators because social attitudes about them are still tied to outdated and gendered notions about women’s work.

Susan Harney, chairperson of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, explained her organization’s plan, which is heavily endorsed by parents, grandparents, B.C. labour, community, business, municipalities and school boards.

Similar to the $7 a day child care plan that already exists in Quebec, the B.C. plan calls on government to commit to a child care system with fees for families capped at $10 per day,” she said. “Families making less than $40,000 a year would pay no user fee. This plan is good for children, women and the B.C. economy. ”

A family event

The event came the day after International Women’s Day, to ensure that the greatest number of families could participate.

Messages left at Premier Clark’s constituency office were from mothers and fathers, children, and early childhood educators asking the premier to stand behind her “Families First” commitment.

The event was organized by the BC Fed and affiliates, CUPE BC and the BCGEU, along with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC.

National campaign

On March 11, CUPE National, working within a coalition of unions and child care advocates, launched a new child care campaign with a website , a video , and a series of Tweets related to child care issues in Canada.

The campaign’s key message is that the provision of public and non-profit child care should be a priority in the 2015 federal election. The campaign cites several statistics related to child care. For example, 78 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six don’t have regulated child care spaces. The average cost is per child is $30-80 a day, or over $1000 a month per child. And in Quebec, regulated child care spaces are just $7 a day.

 “It is time we bring this option to the rest of Canada,” says one Tweet.

 “If you want to have kids, and if you want to have a job, you need to have child care,” says another.

 To see photos of Saturday’s event, visit the gallery.