February 12, 2016

English Edition, No. 3

Quebec-Wide Mobilization in Defence of Childcare

A Modern Society Must Provide Accessible Childcare



Quebec-Wide Mobilization in Defence of Childcare
A Modern Society Must Provide Accessible Childcare
- Linda Sullivan
-
Defend Our Social Programs! No to the Destruction of Childcare Programs!
Petition to Increase Investments in Childcare Services

Quebec National Assembly Resumes Sitting
A Government at Odds with Society's Needs
Couillard Government Cabinet Shuffle


Quebec-Wide Mobilization in Defence of Childcare

A Modern Society Must Provide Accessible Childcare


Rally outside the Quebec National Assembly on the occasion of the
Liberal pre-session caucus, February 4, 2016.
(AQCPE)

As part of the larger fight against the Couillard government's austerity agenda, daycare workers, administrators, parents and the population in general have taken a stand against the $120 million in cuts announced to Quebec's subsidized daycare program.

Recent actions to defend accessible public childcare include the February 7 Quebec-wide rally, as well as a February 4 rally in front of the National Assembly in the lead-up to the Liberal pre-session caucus. The mass mobilization campaign also includes videos, a petition, visibility campaigns at each early childhood education centre (CPE), and human chains surrounding daycares on the first of every month, in the spirit of the monthly human chains staged in defence of public education since May 2015.

The Quebec Association of Early Childhood Centres (AQCPE), and the organization Toujours fous de nos enfants (Forever Crazy About Our Kids) wrote on their Facebook pages in preparation for  the February 7 action:

"The CPE network has already given a lot -- more than $400 million since 2006. It must also deal with several decisions that jeopardize the educational mission and the quality of services offered to children by their CPE. A balanced budget has now been attained, with the government even posting surpluses. Yet it wants to cut an additional $120 million for the 2016-2017 year."

Daycare organizations in fact claim that the government's planned cuts are closer to $320 million and will jeopardize nearly 5,000 jobs.  Louis Sénécal, the AQCPE's President and Director General says it will affect between 20 and 25 per cent of the educators in public and private subsidized daycares.

Sénécal said that the government has increased fees for daycares and wants parents to pay more but is removing educators from the CPEs. "It's totally unacceptable," he quite rightly pointed out.

A modern society must provide accessible education, starting from daycare through to post-secondary studies. What is missing are modern mechanisms to enable citizens to decide upon the direction of the economy to ensure that such services are guaranteed for all.

The introduction of a subsidized daycare program was a major victory for the Quebec people, especially for women, enabling them to rejoin the workforce and attain financial independence. The Quebec Liberal government's austerity agenda must not pass. Quebeckers are firmly opposed to calling into question any of the established norms, standards and social gains -- won through hard fought battles -- that include public services and the working conditions of those who provide them.




Defend Our Social Programs!
No to the Destruction of Childcare Programs!

On February 7, actions were held in 18 cities across Quebec under the theme: Toujours fous de nos enfants! (Forever Crazy About Our Kids!). Nearly 20,000 daycare educators, parents and children rallied in Émilie-Gamelin park in Montreal, with several thousand more also taking action across Quebec, in defence of public, accessible and quality childcare services.

A modern society is duty-bound to guarantee the rights of the people and their well-being. This includes the provision and guarantee of early childcare centres (CPEs), as well as the necessary services at the highest possible level, along with all the human, material and financial resources and support that people require. The Couillard Liberal government is shirking its responsibilities in the name of austerity.

Since 2006, more than $400 million has been cut from the CPEs, including $100 million in 2014 and $74 million in 2015. Now the new Minister of Families Stéphane Proulx has declared that Quebec plans to recover (read: carry out legalized theft of) another $120 million. This shows the government's contempt towards the needs of thousands of women and men who rely on these centres for their livelihood and the families who rely on services the CPEs provide so as to participate in the affairs of the society.

Behind the figures lie cuts to language therapy; absconding with revenue directly generated by the hard work of the CPEs and the families, as well as surpluses accumulated for operational and emergency funds; cuts to work hours and educators' jobs; cuts to assistance for children with learning difficulties; food rationing; the abolition of educational projects; additional costs to parents; increased daycare fees; reduced hours for after-school daycare services, CPE closures and more. The stories from those involved in the CPE network consistently point to the consequences of such irresponsible cuts.

The response of Premier Philippe Couillard to the stand of families and CPE workers against the dismantling of public early childhood education was to declare at his January 28 Cabinet shuffle, "Life is not only numbers." He then quoted former U.S. Attorney-General Robert Kennedy: "The Gross National Product does not include the beauty of our poetry or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile." Indeed!

Although Couillard has the power to quote such a statement for his ill-intended purposes, all he reveals is how aloof and socially irresponsible he is. Attempts to poke fun at the opposition to the government's nation-wrecking program in this way will only garner more disgust. The people of Quebec consider the attacks on social programs criminal.

All Out in Defence of Social Programs Dedicated to Our Children!




Petition to Increase Investments in Childcare Services

Quebeckers have until February 24 to sign the petition launched November 24, 2015 by the Quebec Association of Early Childhood Centres demanding a reversal of cuts to child care services. The formal petition will be presented to the National Assembly of Quebec. It demands the reversal of $74 million in cuts announced for non-profit early childhood centres (CPEs) in 2015 as well as further cuts of $120 million in 2016.

Chantier politique has translated the text of the petition below.

***

WHEREAS child development, equity and equal opportunity are central to the 1997 White Paper "Children at the heart of our choices";

WHEREAS Quebec's family policy has had a remarkable effect on the employment rate of women and the fight against poverty;

WHEREAS the law on childcare services serves to promote the quality of educational childcare to ensure the health, safety, development, well-being and equal opportunities for children;

WHEREAS education begins at birth and is the foundation of a prosperous and healthy society;

WHEREAS ending universality jeopardizes the right of every child to equal opportunities;

WHEREAS experts agree on the preventive nature of investment in early childhood, Nobel Laureate James Heckman has shown that every dollar invested will generate savings of $7 in health care, education, public security and the justice system;

WHEREAS the government imposed cuts of $74 million in 2015-2016 to subsidized educational childcare, and it is about to cut an additional $120 million in 2016-2017, threatening equal opportunities, quality services to children and their families and thousands of jobs;

We, the undersigned, ask the Quebec government to withdraw the cuts announced for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 and undertake to promote equal opportunities for increased investments in quality educational child care.

***

The petition is available in French on the website of the Quebec National Assembly. To sign the petition, click here and complete the following steps:

1. Fill out the form under the text of the petition, check the box verifying your endorsement of the petition and the relevant conditions, then click send.

2. Check your email for a confirmation message from the National Assembly and click the link provided to sign the petition.


Quebec National Assembly Resumes Sitting

A Government at Odds with Society's Needs

In an attempt to legitimize the neo-liberal austerity agenda, Premier Philippe Couillard announced a Cabinet shuffle on January 28, just before the National Assembly resumed sitting on February 9.

The promotion of neo-liberalism is reflected in the theme chosen by the Liberal government for the Cabinet shuffle: "Together with courage and determination, we are moving Quebec forward." Who specifically is included in the "Together" referred to? Repeating that the narrow private interests of the monopolies and the interests of the workers are one and the same does not make it so. Cuts to social programs and services clearly benefit private interests, by opening up new sectors for privatization. This then enables the government to reduce social spending and put more public funds at the disposal of private interests. This in no way serves the interests of the majority of Quebeckers. The neo-liberal austerity agenda is at odds with society's needs.

The new Cabinet is comprised of 29 ministers. Eight ministers have changed portfolios, while fifteen others have kept theirs.

Those moved in the shuffle include Sam Hamad, formerly minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security who is now Minister responsible for Government Administration and Ongoing Program Review, as well as Chair of the Treasury Board. As Labour Minister, Hamad had introduced Bill 70, which excludes 85 per cent of all new applicants from qualifying for social assistance.

In addition, Pierre Moreau is now Minister of Education. He is notorious for Bill 3 (now Act 15) during his time as Minister of Municipal Affairs, which legalized the extortion and plunder of municipal employees' pensions in December 2014. Moreau is the seventh minister of education since 2010, a sign of the government's difficulty in maintaining its pretense of defending education in the face of the massive and militant opposition of students, teachers and parents. He will now have to implement Bill 86 that seeks to eliminate elected school commissioners and school boards, to be replaced with a 16-member council, as part of a vast program of privatization and centralization of decision-making power at the expense of parents, teachers, students and school commissioners. 

As the National Assembly resumed its sitting, Quebeckers stepped up their opposition to the dismantling of public services, the sell-out of resources and disregard for the natural environment. Their resistance shows that a new direction for Quebec and its economy is sorely needed.


Couillard Government Cabinet Shuffle

Following the January 28 shuffle, the members of Cabinet now are:

Lise Thériault: Deputy Premier; Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Regulatory Streamlining and Regional Economic Development; Minister responsible for the Status of Women; Minister responsible for the Lanaudière region;

Jean-Marc Fournier: Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and Canadian Francophonie; Government House Leader;

Carlos Leitão: Minister of Finance;

Stéphanie Vallée: Minister of Justice; Minister responsible for the Outaouais region;

Sam Hamad: Minister responsible for Government Administration and Ongoing Program Review; Chair of the Treasury Board; Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region;

Pierre Moreau: Minister of Education and Higher Education; Minister responsible for the Montérégie region;

Pierre Arcand: Minister of Energy and Natural Resources; Minister responsible for the Plan Nord; Minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region;

Dominique Anglade: Minister of the Economy, Science and Innovation; Minister responsible for the Digital Strategy (new minister);

Hélène David: Minister of Culture and Communications; Minister responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language;

Martin Coiteux: Minister of Municipal Affairs and Land Occupancy; Minister of Public Security; Minister responsible for the Montréal region;

François Blais: Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity;

Christine St-Pierre: Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie; Minister responsible for the Laurentides region;

Gaétan Barrette: Minister of Health and Social Services;

Kathleen Weil: Minister of Immigration; Diversity and Inclusiveness;

David Heurtel: Minister of Sustainable Development; the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change;

Jacques Daoust: Minister of Transport; Sustainable Mobility and Transport Electrification;

Laurent Lessard: Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks; Minister responsible for the Centre-du-Québec region;

Pierre Paradis: Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food;

Sébastien Proulx: Minister of Families; Minister responsible for the Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine region (new minister);

Julie Boulet: Minister of Tourism; Minister responsible for the Mauricie region;

Geoffrey Kelley: Minister responsible for Native Affairs;

Dominique Vien: Minister responsible for Labour; Minister responsible for the Chaudière-Appalaches region; Deputy Government House Leader;

Francine Charbonneau: Minister responsible for Seniors and Anti-Bullying; Minister responsible for the Laval region;

Rita de Santis: Minister responsible for Access to Information and Reform of Democratic Institutions (new minister);

Lucie Charlebois: Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Lifestyles;

Jean D'Amour: Minister for Maritime Affairs; Minister responsible for the Bas-Saint-Laurent region;

Luc Blanchette: Minister for Mines; Minister responsible for the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region; Minister responsible for the Nord-du-Québec region; and

Luc Fortin: Minister for Recreation and Sport; Minister responsible for the Estrie region (new minister).

Also participating in Cabinet are:

Stéphane Billette: Chief Government Whip; and

Nicole Ménard: Chair of the Government Caucus.


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