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OTTAWA – Today’s federal child care deal with Manitoba gets a cross-Canada system off on the right foot, setting a standard that Canada’s largest union urges the federal government and other provinces and territories to meet and surpass.

“This agreement sets the bar high for other governments, most importantly on the issue of non-profit care,” says Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “The evidence from Canada and around the world clearly points to non-profit care as better quality and the best use of tax dollars. We’re pleased Manitoba has shown leadership on this critical point by taking a stand supporting non-profit, community-based care.”

“Not only is Manitoba committing to high quality care, they’re protecting their system from trade challenges by foreign big-box corporations. The federal government should follow Manitoba’s lead, ensuring all future agreements commit new money only to expansion in the non-profit sector,” added Moist.

Today’s signing lends new momentum to the movement to transform Canada’s current patchwork arrangement of child care into a high-quality system. It also highlights the urgency of passing the child care provisions in the federal budget – along with other progressive initiatives that build communities, including funding for like housing, municipalities, post-secondary education and the environment.

“While Stephen Harper threatens to bring down the government for his own ends, child care centres are holding bake sales to stay afloat,” says Paul Moist. “The money for child care must flow before an election – Canada’s kids and parents have been waiting far too long.”

Workers are key to the success of this expanded program, and Manitoba’s Five-Year Plan for child care is preparing for a surge in demand for skilled child care workers. Moist says other provinces must also address recruitment and retention of child care workers by adopting plans to improve wages, working conditions and training opportunities. Income in the child care sector is about half the national average for all occupations, and less than half as much as elementary school and kindergarten teachers.

CUPE will continue to press for strong accountability to the provincial legislature and to Parliament, working with Manitoba and the federal government to define the details of measures to ensure child care dollars are accounted for. Strong accountability measures will hold provinces to the principles of quality, universality, accessibility and developmental enrichment.

CUPE is looking forward to the child care agreement that will be announced later today with Saskatchewan, expecting that it will also lay a solid foundation for high-quality child care. Looking ahead, Moist promised CUPE would continue to work closely with child care advocates, pressing policy makers and politicians to build Canada’s child care system right, from the start. A critical goal yet to be reached is to convert child care into a universal, publicly-funded system with low parent fees.

“The Manitoba government has laid a solid foundation that lets them continue working towards a universal system all parents can access and afford,” says Moist. “We hope their commitment kick-starts other provinces to sign similar deals.”

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The 540,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees deliver a broad range of public services in communities across the country. More than 5,000 CUPE members are child care workers.

For more information:
Paul Moist, CUPE National President, cell (613) 558-2873

Claude Généreux, CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer (porte-parole francophone), cell (613) 794-8395

David Robbins, CUPE Communications, cell (613) 878-1431