“Premier Ford simply hasn’t given child care centres adequate notice, support, or guidelines - it took emergency child care centres three weeks to prepare for opening, not three days,” says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, CUPE Ontario Social Services Chair. “Had Ford adequately consulted with directors, staff, child care advocacy organizations, and directed funding to the already underfunded sector, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
On June 8, Ford announced that child care centres across the province can reopen on June 12, giving centres a mere three days to adapt spaces and programs to new COVID-19 health and safety regulations and determine which children will receive priority given new space limitations. That same evening after 10:30pm child care operators were provided with guidelines for operating during the pandemic.
“It’s vital that this sector receive adequate support to reopen safely under the new regulations and restrictions—without new funding, the financial burden falls on parents who are already struggling to get by,” says Taylor Kociszewski, President of CUPE Local 2204 which represents hundreds of child care workers in eastern Ontario.
On May 15, CUPE Ontario delivered a letter to Premier Ford and Minister Leece outlining what is needed to ensure the safe re-opening of child care across the province, including the dire need for an injection of funding for necessary PPE, training, and additional cleaning and disinfecting requirements. The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) recently published an open letter condemning the Ford government for its negligence—as of June 12 the letter has more than 13,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
“Parents, early childhood educators, child care workers, and community members are rightfully concerned—Ford has essentially launched an attack on child care,” continued Poole-Cotnam. “In fact, Minister Lecce decided to claw back provincial funding in May—essentially forcing centres to either permanently shut down or hike already inaccessible parent fees.”
Child care centres across Ontario are all working around the clock to re-open safely, CUPE Ontario reports. Centres in Ottawa are reporting an optimistic re-open date as early as July 6, 2020. Centres located in school spaces will rely on decisions from school boards on when staff will be able to access spaces to begin preparing for re-opening.
CUPE recently joined OCBCC and Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) in the release of a new report, From Reopening to Recovery that lays out a plan to ensure a safe reopening, adequate funding and support for educators and programs, and a strengthened child care system at the core of economic and social recovery.