Montreal

Demonstrators gather in Quebec City to protest lack of daycare services in province

About 100 parents, educators and opposition leaders participated in a sit-in in front of the National Assembly on Sunday morning to protest working conditions and the general lack of places in subsidized daycare in Quebec.

Quebec's Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe says he is working on a solution

About 100 people joined the protest, including politicians and daycare providers on Sunday in Quebec City. (Kassandra Nadeau-Lamarche/Radio-Canada)

The only daycare for Grosse-Île's English community closed two years ago and Jessica Goodwin hasn't had access to one since. 

Now her youngest is one of about 30 children who attend a respite daycare that has been set up for the fishing season.

"We are extremely happy to have it because it is literally saving a lot of people and a lot of families," she said. 

But Goodwin is far from the only parent in Quebec's Magdalen Islands and across the province who is struggling to find a spot for their children.

About 100 parents, educators and opposition leaders participated in a sit-in in front of the National Assembly on Sunday morning to protest working conditions and the general lack of places in subsidized daycare in Quebec.

Thousands on waiting list

More than 50,000 children are currently on a waiting list dubbed "La Place 0-5."

La Place 0-5 was launched in 2014 and has since become the only access to all recognized childcare services in Quebec. 

Early childhood centres, known as CPEs, and non-subsidized daycare centres are legally required to accept only from the list, which is owned by the Enfance Famille cooperative.

But Gabrielle Drolet, a young mother of two from Quebec City, is among thousands who have not had any luck with the service.

"I am on unpaid leave due to the lack of childcare spaces. We had one, but COVID shut it down," she said.

She considers herself lucky to have landed a spot for August, "but I am still four months without pay. It's not normal to have to stay at home."

Politicians join protest

Québec solidaire's Catherine Dorion was one of several opposition politicians who joined the protest Sunday.

"The problem is everywhere in the province, but in Quebec CIty, it's catastrophic," she said.

Parti Québécois leader Paul Saint-Pierre-Plamondon said daycare access is imperative for reviving the economy.

"Thousands of families cannot go to work. So we are losing money because of the incompetence of the government," he said.

Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon says daycare access is imperative for reviving the economy. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

An advocacy group, Ma place au travail movement, is calling for immediate financial assistance to those families who are deprived of a salary because of the lack of daycare spots.

The group's founder, Myriam Lapointe-Gagnon, said the group also wants it to be easier to create childcare centres in the province, with less red tape to cut through. Lastly, the group wants a strong effort to recruit and retain educators.

Working to meet demand

Improving daycare services across the province was a Coalition Avenir Québec campaign promise, though no timeline was given.

Quebec's Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe already cut the bureaucracy last March in order to accelerate the development of thousands of new spots, his office said in a statement on Sunday.

In the coming year, it is estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 subsidized spots will open, the statement says.

In addition to these measures, the minister will announce on Monday a new concrete solution to make spots accessible faster.

Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe said he is working to open thousands of daycare spots. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

In discussing his plan in recent weeks, Lacombe has said he will give educators incentives to work and add thousands of more spots to the network and he isn't ruling out overhauling La Place 0-5.

"Everything is on the table," he said earlier this week after admitting his own dissatisfaction with the program during a parliamentary committee session this week. 

La Place 0-5 is financed by a levy on childcare services, and has not received any investment from the Ministry of Family since 2018.

"Do we currently have the best practices? I think there is room for improvement," said Lacombe. "We find that what has been set up does not meet the needs we have."

On Wednesday, Lacombe said on Facebook that his party wants "our toddlers develop to their full potential while their parents can return to work. Great announcements are coming!"

Aiming for 100% subsidized

The minister has said he the province will help fund 70,000 private daycare spots so the network "will be 100 per cent subsidized."

Lacombe has also said he will offer incentives for home educators which, according to him, would quickly create up to 3,000 places.

But until the government gets those spots open, people like Helena Burke are trying to fill gaps in their community by creating a private daycare so parents can work.

Burke is the executive director of the Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders. She said without daycare services, families are less likely to settle or stay in the region.

Burke has ensured the respite daycare service exists for now but says, "it's a short-term solution to a long-term problem."

With files from Marika Wheeler and Radio-Canada

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