CUPE Quebec, the largest affiliate of the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) and the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (SQEES-FTQ), which represents workers in the health and social services sector, submitted a joint brief regarding preschool education services for students 4 years of age in response to of Bill 5, An Act to amend the Education Act.

Like various civil society groups, both unions are firmly opposed to implementing preschool education services for all 4-year-olds. They maintain that Quebec’s early childhood centre (CPE) network should be expanded and developed since it has already demonstrated results.

“The haste with which the government wants to make preschool education services mandatory for 4-year-olds cannot be justified. More extensive study and broader-based consultations should be conducted before forging ahead with such an ambitious project,” said Denis Bolduc, the president of CUPE Quebec.

The brief also touched on the astronomical costs of implementing this project. The per-class cost was set at $122,400 during the provincial election campaign and has now ballooned to $800,000 today.

The unions also point to substantial obstacles to the implementation of Bill 5, including the lack of teaching personnel, the relative inability of the Quebec government to attract new employees and the anticipated construction delays that would affect new kindergarten classes.

“The investment in our children should not involve bricks and mortar but should instead focus on the current CPE network, which, in our view, is superior in every aspect,” declared Sylvie Nelson, the president of SQEES-FTQ.

“In our opinion, better use should be made of the premises and infrastructures of the daycare services network before any consideration is given to new construction. Investing in new services would be more cost-effective from a socio-economic standpoint, and children under the age of 5 would gain more if that approach were taken,” added Nelson.

The SQEES and CUPE have asked the minister to put the bill on hold and undertake extensive consultation with the groups and organizations concerned and with specialists to generate a consensus as to how investments should be made in the right model. Both unions are also hoping that the Minister of Families will spearhead this consultation.