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Quebec’s Bill 124 (www.mfacf.gouv.qc.ca/publications/pdf/projet_loi124_en.pdf) was adopted in December 2005 amid much fanfare from Jean Charest’s Liberals. But families from Québec are not falling for the hoopla.

Bill 124, the Educational Childcare Act, indicates a massive shift in child care philosophy and policy. It all started with a $50-million cut to the child care program. Prior to the bill’s passage, the Quebec child care system was seen as a beacon for the rest of Canada in terms of affordability, quality and developmental programming delivered within a mostly public framework. Bill 124 is a restructuring of the system and will allow privatization of child care services.

Under the old system, a majority of spaces were in so-called “centres de la petite enfance” (CPE), or early childhood centres – specifically, 84 per cent of spaces in facilities and home child care and 16 per cent in for-profit centres. The proposed system is structured in three layers: 40 per cent of spaces in CPEs, 16 per cent in for-profit centres and 44 per cent run out of home child care coordination offices. These offices can be managed by any type of business as assigned by the Ministry of Family.

That the family minister has the discretion to direct 44 per cent of spaces within the private sector is a disappointment to Quebec families and supporters of the public system in the rest of Canada. This reform attacks the public, democratic and community-based structure of the CPEs by opening the door to commercial home care services and by allowing the minister to unilaterally take power from the CPEs.

The potential results of the new legislation are fee hikes. Family Minister Carole Théberge has already confirmed a new fee structure for different levels of child care. It could also mean a decline in services for children with special needs and unnecessary and subjective powers for the minister. Théberge also pushed through Bill 124 without any evidence to justify the changes.

The democratic and progressive services offered by the CPEs are about to be cut in half for no other reason other than the ideology of Liberal privatization.