The Nova Scotia Auditor General Report on licensed child care is telling CUPE early childhood educators (ECE) what they already know. Licensing and inspections are regulatory mechanisms that may work well for restaurants and grocery chains, but they’re a poor substitute for a public education system that should begin with early learning and care.

Also, when there’s an acute and urgent need, such as with the recent lockout of students by the McNeil Government, our children’s health and safety is shown to be more rhetoric than reality.

Speaking of inspections for “approved” family home day care centres, the department is not following its own policy even with only 25 per cent of homes requiring an inspection. This is cold comfort when it comes to “high priority” violations like criminal checks and child abuse registry checks. What happens in unapproved family home care, where most of Nova Scotia children are placed?

As the Auditor General points out, there is no defining what it means to have or improve “accessible” and “affordable” child care. Without a definition and a starting point, there’s no ability to monitor and measure if the government is doing anything to improve child care.

That lack of a baseline isn’t surprising. No one, including the Auditor General, knows what’s happened to the recommendations from the Nova Scotia government’s review entitled “A Great Place to Grow”, making it not only a hollow exercise at best, but with its austerity budgets, vicious fights with our teachers, and the flight of our movie industry, it seems like Nova Scotia is not really a great place to grow at all. 

The reality is that our government is addressing the dire lack of child care spaces by pushing families out of the province, reducing the public sector, cutting jobs predominantly held by women, and tacitly ensuring they’re out of options – so they might as well stay home. How will this affect income inequality in Nova Scotia?

With $40 million in wage grants and subsidies, our public monies are wrongly spent on commercial centres where some of that money goes into someone’s profit margin. The Auditor General notes the grants for ECE wages are not helping recruitment and retention, and that our subsidies to parents who cannot afford the high cost of ECE is among the lowest in Canada.

CUPE is well aware that the provinces are meeting regularly with Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of Families, Children, and Social Development to hammer out a National Child Care Framework. Now is the time to tell our MLAs and MPs that we need a public child care system, so that:

  • Learning and care is affordable and accessible to all children.
  • Educators are well paid and will view early child care as a real professional choice.
  • The quality of teaching, learning, and care is no longer an idea that’s left off reviews, policies, and Auditor General reports. 
  • The quality of early learning and care should be at the heart of it all.