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VANCOUVER— The B.C. labour movement renewed its fight with the federal government over child care yesterday, with delegates at the BC Federation of Labour’s 52nd annual convention passing two key composite resolutions aimed at lobbying for a national child care program and preventing the foreign takeover of Canadian child care centres.

The first resolution commits BC Fed affiliates, and the Canadian Labour Congress, to lobby the Harper Conservative government to launch a national child care program in partnership with the provinces. The program would fund quality, universal, community-based child care in every province while ensuring that child care workers receive proper training and are fairly compensated.

The second resolution takes direct aim at the encroachment of foreign, “big-box” corporate child care in Canada. It calls for the BC Fed to continue working with the Code Blue campaign and, through the CLC, lobby MPs to support Bill C-103, an Early Learning and Child Care Act. It also calls for affiliates to lobby municipal councils, school boards and other institutions to speak out against new for-profit or foreign-owned child care centres.

CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, addressing the second resolution from the floor, said that speaking out is not enough—that activists should use the success of the November 15 community elections to push for more public child care infrastructure.

“We’ve done quite well in local elections to put people in a position to actually build infrastructure,” he said. “What better way to do this than to build child care centres in communities, for neighbourhoods, for the families that need them?”

“There’s no municipality or school board that doesn’t have capital stock—property they have available to do things with that they too often end up selling off to corporations. Affordable, accessible child care is what we need to have, and there’s plenty of property available for that. What we’re doing at the federal level we need to do at the local level. This is good for our communities; it’s good for our economy.”

The resolutions and discussions on child care followed guest speeches by Vancouver mayor-elect Gregor Robertson and former United Nations AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis.

Robertson, whose Vision Vancouver-COPE Coalition nearly swept city council on Nov. 15, thanked delegates for the pivotal role they played in helping elect a progressive council. He also called on the labour movement to assist him in the fight to end homelessness in Vancouver.

Lewis, one of Canada’s greatest public speakers, stirred delegates with a passionate speech denouncing the “wretched” capitalist system and paying tribute to the trade union movement for embracing human values “rather than avarice, greed, human insensitivity.”
Commenting on the current financial crisis, he neatly summed up the injustice of the global economy by recalling a recent conversation with U2 rock star Bono.

“He said, ‘I can’t understand how the U.S. government can in two days arrange a $700-billion bailout for the banks but the G8—the world’s richest countries—cannot, in three years, raise the $25 billion they promised to relieve the world’s poorest’.”

In other convention news yesterday, the leaders of B.C.’s largest unions and the First Nations Leadership Council (BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs) signed an historic agreement before convention delegates. The Protocol on Cooperation and Communication acknowledges mutual objectives including raising awareness of First Nations title rights and interests, and of workers rights, using joint initiatives to achieve social justice for First Nations in B.C. and collaborating on public policy issues of mutual concern.

Also at convention, delegates unanimously passed an emergency resolution calling for a boycott of Petro Canada gas stations and consumer products, to support workers who have spent more than a year on picket lines after being locked out by Petro Canada.