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TORONTO, Ont. Now that it has signed a funding agreement with the federal government, the Ontario government must make a firm commitment to expand child care in the not-for-profit sector only and to make it a truly universal system, says the provinces largest union.

We are very pleased that the agreement has been signed and that it acknowledges the need to stabilize the workforce we hope with enhanced funding for wages, benefits and professional development, said Sid Ryan, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario Division. CUPE represents about 5,000 child care workers across the province.

However, we believe that early childhood education and care is a public service, not a business, he said. This agreement, and the provinces Best Start program, leave the door wide open for transferring public dollars to private profit. Between 2001 and 2004, the increase in the size of the for-profit sector was more than three times that of the non-profit sector with a growth of 10,732 for-profit spaces and 3,264 non-profit spaces, he noted.

The great disappointment with Ontarios child care plan is its continued reliance on parent fees and fee subsidies.

We want to see a universal plan with minimal, flat rate fees like the system in Quebec, he said. We will never have stability in early childhood education as long as funding is based on parent fees and subsidized spaces.

Ryan and other CUPE Ontario representatives raised these issues in a recent meeting with Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni.

The minister has taken seriously the need for accountability, said Shellie Bird, CUPE 2204 education officer and co-chair of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. Were glad to see a commitment in the agreement to targets, timelines, tracking and reporting.

For more information, contact:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario, 416-209-0066 (cell);
Shellie Bird, CUPE 2204 education officer and co-chair of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, 613-728-8146;
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications, 416-299-9739 ext. 264