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OTTAWA – Canada’s largest union is urging MPs to get it right on child care by passing Bill C-303 into law.

“Canada’s history is shameful on child care. Underfunding and foot-dragging has left us dead last among industrialized countries. Bill C-303 is a chance for us as a country to make history by cementing a framework for excellence,” says Jamie Kass, chair of CUPE’s national child care working group. Kass and Ottawa child care worker Shellie Bird presented a brief to the parliamentary committee examining the Early Learning and Child Care Act.

Bill C-303, an NDP private members’ bill, would lay the foundation for an accountable, high quality early learning and child care system.

“There needs to be a law entrenching a cross-Canada child care system, ensuring it can’t be cancelled by press conference, as Stephen Harper did to our emerging child care system the moment he’d been sworn in,” says Kass. CUPE is clear that legislation alone won’t make the grade, and is calling for the increased federal funding it will take to achieve C-303’s goal of high-quality care.

Legislation would provide accountability and transparency – planks of the Conservative election platform that are lost in translation when it comes to child care, says Kass. “This government is content to simply transfer money to the provinces with no obligation or framework to establish programs. They’ve even abandoned the concept of the social union.”

Bill C-303 limits expansion of for-profit child care, a move that protects Canada from international trade disputes and ensures the highest quality care, according to Kass. CUPE’s brief provides warnings from Australia’s experience with for-profit care.

“Australia has gone from mostly non-profit child care to a country where 70 per cent of child care is commercially owned, mostly by a big-box corporation that’s the largest in the world. Given the solid evidence linking higher quality care with non-profit delivery, it’s no surprise the most recent OECD report gives Australia low marks,” says Kass. “We don’t want to see the proliferation of large commercial child care centres in Canada that are focused on shareholder returns instead of quality,” he added.

“Bill C-303 emphasizes quality, and we want to stress the relationship between quality care and good wages and working conditions,” says Bird, a member of CUPE 2204 and long-time child care worker. “We need to invest in the child care workforce, ensuring we can recruit and retain the highly qualified and skilled staff that are the key to the success of a cross-Canada child care system.”

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For more information: Catherine Louli, CUPE Communications, 613-237-1590 ext. 268 or 613 851 0547 (cell); Jamie Kass, 613-236-7230 ext. 7913; Shellie Bird, CUPE 2204, 613-233-0228.

Visit cupe.ca/childcare for further background.