Town Hall Transcript

Transcript

Childcare Is Essential Town Hall

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Facebook Live

REBECCA LARIVIERE: The meeting is now streaming live on Facebook. Okay. [child babbling happily] I wonder if you guys can hear my child in the background? [Laughing.] Uh, welcome! everyone who is already here, this is the Childcare is Essential Town Hall on childcare. So we are really excited to share with youand we will just start in a few minutes, let some people join us before we share all the information I have - I have eyes on the ground so I am going to kind of get some information about how many people are with us and let that inform me of when we should start. So for anyone who is just joining us, this is Childcare is Essential Town Hall on childcare, the importance of childcare in our province. Okay! That's really good, we already have 27 people, wow that's really good turnout, can't wait to start. Uh, it's exactly 7 o'clock and I am going to just give it one more minute.[Laughing.] This is very exciting. Okay, I'm going to go ahead.

Um, again everybody, this is the Childcare is Essential Town Hall on childcare. So we are going to share some information with you guys today start first and foremost to acknowledge the traditional tenants of this land. Sayisi Dene, Dakota, Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree and Metis Nation.

I also want to not only acknowledge the land that we are on but also some of the teachings that Indigenous communities have shared with us and the most important with the context that we are in today is that children traditionally are placed at the centre of all decisions we make, so they are quite literally the biggest determining factor in our population's health and so while I would like to be thankful for the land that I'm on I'm also thankful for those teachings and to set us off on the right foot I think that is important to share.

My name is Rebecca LaRiviere. I am Metis from Treaty 1. I am an Early Childhood Educator and a parent of a three-year-old you may have heard just shortly uh, while we were waiting to get started. And I'm really happy to moderate this Town Hall today. So, for a very very long time childcare has been just an election topic in passing. It's never really been something that people have put any weight into.

So, centres have, for a long time, been struggling to recruit and retain staff. Really good qualified staff often move on because we just can't appear to pay them fairly. Meanwhile, at the exact same time parents are also struggling to find spaces. So there is, last I checked about two years ago, there was over 16,000 children on the waitlist in Manitoba. And that is extremely detrimental. That shows not only a need, but the government's lack of action on that. In the first two to three years of life, a child's brain grows to be 90% of its adult size. These are really, really crucial years that once that time has passed very difficult to go back to the beginning and and, uh, redo those years. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. And it is way easier and way much — it is a much more [Laughing.] affordable of an investment to start really early.

Children are literally aging out of those crucial years while our government just twiddles their thumbs and wastes their time. And it's not just this current government, it's been a long time. So, Childcare is Essential is a group of parents, childcare providers from all different kinds of childcare, programs as well as allies. Working towards a fully accessible publicly funded non-profit and most importantly — and actually well-functioning — childcare system. For all children. We are organizing both in response to and against the attacks on Manitoba's childcare sector that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. And those we foresee with the KPMG report commissioned by the Pallister government expected to be released this summer.

One of Childcare is Essential's biggest goals is educating the general public on the current childcare system that we have here in Manitoba and what is required for it to be actually effective for all children. and that's what brings us here today. We have this whole gorgeous panel of people who are willing to share with us today some of that information. The only way that this becomes a topic that governments care about is when parents and public's vote is on the line. So today we are letting parents know that we really need you to be a part of this, or nothing happens. Today we work towards our goal of highlighting the collective voices of parents, community members, and allies to let our government know that childcare IS essential and that this effects us all.

So, we have four speakers today! We have alloted about ten minutes each for them to share with us and in true EiC fashion, I will give you guys a minute warning when it is almost time to transition. So first and foremost, We are going to jump right into it. Dr. Susan Prentice, from Childcare Coalition of Manitoba and the — or, yeah, Childcare Coalition of Manitoba AND the University of Manitoba. Take it away, Susan. Oh. Pause. Susan, you're still muted, Kate, can you... Do that, or Susan.

SUSAN PRENTICE: I'm unmuted. Sorry about that.

REBECCA: We're back, thank you!

SUSAN PRENTICE: Okay. Man. Thank you! I was saying. I am really happy to be here and to get to share some key facts and figures and data with you about childcare. Partly because I think that if we have a good map and we sort of know where we are we get a sense of where we've been and it helps us figure out where we can go. So. COVID. Man. Just blew everything out the water, and I have to say Manitoba's response has been underwhelming. And disappointing. But there is a history before that to know about and it sets us up for a history that is coming. So I thought what I would do is kind of tell you a little bit about the big picture like the building blocks of what Manitoba has as a policy architecture because I think that Manitoba is kind of like a fixer-upper house. Like if you walk around the house you're like mmm, needs some work, but it's got good bones, right? And there is a lot in Manitoba's childcare system that we should like.

And certainly when I talk to friends and colleagues and other researchers across the country they are like Oh, Manitoba it's got so much going for it. So, I thought I would throw a bunch of numbers at you. because sometimes the numbers tell you the heart of what the problem is. So I want to really talk about some key numbers for Manitoba. So in a nutshell, here is something to know. Now of course every year these numbers change a little bit, but here we go. Best data tells us that we live in a province that is lucky enough to have 191,000 children under the age of 12. And every parent knows that 12 is the magic age that you can leave kids alone so 12 is the age that we need childcare services up to 191,000 children up to the age of 12.

Now, we keep some data on these kids, and we know how many of them have working mothers. We can tell you that 116,400 have a working mother. Now somebody should ask me how many have a working father and I would have to tell you that we don't keep that data. We just don't. Call. We talk about working mothers but we don't talk about working fathers, they're just called "dads." So that's a whole other problem maybe for another town hall

So you've got 191,000 children who might want to use childcare, you've got 116,400 children who have a working mother, there's another unknown number of children who are maybe studying or going to school or taking on important roles in their community or providing care, right we don't know. But these are the pool that might need childcare for. We have in this province at last count, 37,459 licensed childcare spaces for all these children those childcare spaces are found in licensed family homes and in childcare centres. About 92% of them are childcare centres, only about 8.5% are in family homes and as Rebecca told us in the opening, if you want to get a sense of how much need we have, we still have 16,000+ names on the waiting list. So this is an unhappy. This is unhappy data.

If we lived in the European Union, we would be part of countries that have an obligation to provide 90% of the children below school age with childcare services. So we would fall so far short of what the European Union thinks is essential. The Childcare Coalition for a long time has tried saying, "Well, how about a childcare space for 50% of the children under the age of 12?" That would mean we need 95.000 childcare spaces. So about three times as much as we got. Childcare is most obviously needed when a parent works or studies but it's also as Rebecca told us, it's very good for children, right, it's a big part of a child's right, we've signed international conventions that tell us this childcare is essential for women equality, it's essential for family equality and in a nutshell we don't do very well.

And I will say that we don't do very well even in a national comparison. All across Canada, we have a space for about 27% of children under the age of 12 and Manitoba is much below that. With a space for less than 19% of our children. The second problem we have in Manitoba is that you have to pay for childcare if you want to use it. In general we think that childcare is like any other consumer service that you buy if you want to use it. Just like if you want to buy carrots for dinner tonight you go and get them at the grocery store if you want childcare you go out and you buy it yourself and so childcare is premised on being something that parents pay for.

And it's expensive. And this is really important to remember. Because even though in some parts of Canada childcare is even MORE expensive, it's expensive in Manitoba. If you have an infant a baby in childcare, you'll be paying for 252 working days a year over $7,500 a year for your one baby. And if you have two children in childcare, you have to add these numbers up. If you have a preschooler, you pay pretty close, pretty much $5,200 a year and it is a bit varied if you have a school-aged child because some days they are in school and those are less expensive days and some days they are not in school and those are more expensive days but it's still around $3,000 a year.

So for lots and lots of parents, childcare is as expensive as your housing costs. It costs more to go to childcare than it goes — than it does to attend my university where I teach in the faculty of arts Right, childcare is very expensive. But ever since Manitoba set up our system. We've had sort of a protective policy, which is that we've had a maximum fee. And this is very different than most provinces in Canada where the fees are very varied and the centre at the bottom of the street charges X and the centre at the top of the street can charge much more. So this is actually a good feature of Manitoba's policy.

Another good feature of Manitoba's policy is that 95% of the centres in Manitoba are not-for-profit. That means that they are owned and operated by charities and not-for-profits — they're owned and operated by the parents who use them. The government of Manitoba doesn't provide or offer one single licensed childcare space. Every single space we have in this province is either privately owned by an operator, or it's run by a parent, not-for-profit group. It's a good thing, although our government has spent a lot of time saying how sad it is that we don't have more commercial involvement in childcare.

We know that many families live far from a childcare centre. If you think about using childcare, it kind of has to be where you live and we know that many children in Manitoba live in childcare deserts where a childcare centre is too far for them. When the Manitoba Childcare Association did a a big parent survey a couple of years ago they found that the average parent in Manitoba will wait 16 months to get a childcare space. This is very hard on parents. We know that parents can't take up jobs they can't work full time they can't go back to school there is lots of consequences for parents when childcare is not available or when it's too expensive.

So I called it "good bones" even though it needs fixing up, because in general it's not as unaffordable as some provinces. We've got some good quality standards we have pretty good regulations and on the whole we've got a system we could build on and we should be building on it because right now the federal government is giving Manitoba 15 million dollars every year under a new interest that Ottawa is expressing in childcare. But. Since 2016 the government of Manitoba has frozen childcare funding, so if you freeze money for four years every year you have less and less money and last year they didn't even spend all of the money that they promised, they cut it by more than $5 million. So this is really causing a crisis in the childcare sector and i think that if it's not addressed very quickly it's going to pose serious problems. We're already hearing that some programs think they are gonna have to risk closing down. I mean, if rent keeps going up and your money doesn't go up and you can't raise your parent fees, you're between a rock and a hard place and I suspect that things are going to get worse in Manitoba.

Rebecca mentioned this thing called the KPMG Report. KPMG is a big management firm and last summer the province of Manitoba hired them to do a big review of our policy and we're waiting for their report. And KPMG is a business and it thinks like a business. And it's likely to make some recommendations that most people are worried about. So if I looked into a crystal ball, here's what I see coming. I'm pretty sure that KPMG is gonna look at those parent fees I showed you, which are already very expensive, but they are going to say my goodness, they have not been raised in a while what a problem that we haven't raised these fees, so instead of being proud that Manitoba has made it affordable they are going to raise the fees

REBECCA: One minute, Susan.

SUSAN: Thanks, Rebecca. I predict they are going to say it is a problem that we don't have more businesses running childcare and they are going to try to make more policies to promote more commercial childcare I think that they might even potentially talk about deregulating some of our quality standards, or even unregulating the system. They are going to say we have a shortage of programs let the market fill this problem. So. We've had a problem and I predict that rather than fixing it, we see a government that is going to make things worse.

REBECCA: Thank you so much Susan, that's phenomenal. So thankful to have you guys here today. I do have a few housekeeping things I forgot to mention earlier. We do have a these draws that we we had a contest on Facebook to comment or question something you are interested in hearing and uh. Sorry, my timer just went off. And [Laughing] at the end of the Town Hall I will do those draws. I have a little baby hat here, and I will pull those names. At the end as well, we will also have about five minutes for questions so if there is any anything really burning questions you have, feel free to comment on our Facebook Live and we will try and address as many of them as we can at the end of the Town Hall. Thank you, thank you. Okay. So next we have Laura Burla. Where is your intro? Director at St. James Montessori Childcare centre, director and parent! Thanks, Laura!

LAURA: Thanks, Rebecca. Well, first I want to say hi to everyone, and thank you for joining our Town Hall tonight. I would like to talk to you guys tonight about the current state of childcare in Manitoba and build upon what Susan was just speaking about, the crisis we are facing. So I hope this helps shed some light and answers some questions that you might have when I think about the current state of childcare in Manitoba the words that come to mind for me are "confusion," "frustration," "fear," and "crisis." The reason for this is since March when the pandemic began, our childcare sector has had a lot of mixed messages it has had a very poor system of communication from the government but also from began facing financial instability. So that instability started when we lost our parent fees. It has continued on until now.

Centres are slowly reopening back up to capacity if they are able. Some are not going to be able to because of public health recommendations, but for the ones that can open up they are still facing a financial crisis because we have an increase to our expenses. Those increases come from A large part, staffing. This is a pandemic, I know the government keeps telling the public that childcare is safe because we have very extensive cleaning and sanitizing practices. But I know as a director who has been open since the beginning of April and from speaking to other directors who have been open, our current cleaning practices were not adequate for a pandemic. So we do have an extra staff on hand for increased sanitizing cleaning, all those extra things. The second part of it is we are greeting families at the door. We're doing the screening questionnaire. We're making sure it's done. We're ensuring the child is healthy has no symptoms of COVID, according to Dr. Roussin, that is our biggest way to keep us safe. That physically requires the staff to be at the door and not just be at the door for one person, be at the door for all people at drop-off and pickup at staggered times. We don't have that in our budgets. We don't budget an extra person for no reason. So that's adding to our budget to have to hire somebody for that role, plus that cleaning role.

Now, as a nonprofit, we don't have extra money. We don't have rainy-day savings, we don't have savings accounts we can dip into so we are operating at a time when we're already experiencing a revenue loss from a loss of parent fees and an increase in expense. Our fees are set. We can't change them. Our operating grants are set. We're not getting more, and the other revenue stream of fundraising, I'm sure people can understand, not viable, hasn't been viable, won't be as viable for the foreseeing future. There are a few programs, uh, temporary programs, both federal and provincial, that our sector has been able to tap into, so the emergency wage subsidy program from the federal government and now the summer student program through our provincial government those are short term solutions that will help centres stay afloat but the problem is COVID is a long term problem. And we are being given short-term solutions that expire in the coming months with no plan of what we are going to do then. These expenses are not going to go away. There's no prediction for when herd immunity will be reached or when a vaccine will be ready so this is the new normal for childcare. We need these extra staff we need to purchase PPE, no matter what's been said we have not been given supplies of PPE that are adequate in the childcare sectors. I went 9 weeks without getting any and when I got it it was 2 masks. So. There are additional costs that we have to do.

The other part of it is the provincial government keeps saying they've given $30 million to our sector since March. And I want people to really understand. That $30 million is not COVID related funding. It's not extra funding to help us with these expenses that we are experiencing — $7 million of that was our operating grants that we were scheduled to get anyway for April to June. 18 million dollars of that, you've probably heard about lately it's been in the news a lot, was the Temporary Childcare Services grant which was very undersubscribed and proven to be a very failed program the problem is they have only spent $45,000 out of the $18 million, five people got the grant, but since that went public nobody has gotten a response from the province on whether or not they will re-allocate those funds.

So, if you're claiming to give $18 million dollars to the sector to help — but that money is sitting in your bank, not my bank? You are not helping me. Why has it not been re-allocated, given out to the centres who HAVE been open who are experiencing financial distress because of it, and it could help ensure that they are financially stable, to *some* extent.

The other part that we are facing in childcare right now is The morale of our sector. And I think it is important to talk about we have been historically undervalued, under-appreciated, underfunded, and underpaid, and that was before COVID, so we have trained Early Childhood Educators who have two or even three post-secondary degrees who aren't making enough money to put food on the table who have to get a second part time job just to make ends meet and then COVID hits and instead of bringing us to the table, and saying "We need childcare to remain for a frontline essential workers, what can we do received..." extortion stay open or lose your operating grant, then the public messaging started of "step up," "help our heroes" the one that's most confusing and appalling to me was "I'm asking charities to be more charitable," which, coming from my premier... I'm a charitable organization — I can't be any more charitable than I am being, I am doing everything I can can't keep my doors open so when a question is asked of "why are you not giving stable predictable funding?" and the response is "Well we need you to be more charitable." That's not That's not appropriate and it's not respectful to our field. So not only are our staff struggling with their morale, they're struggling with the future of their sector. Will we be here when COVID ends? Will we be lost? Will we have closed our doors?

That's really hard to retain a workforce then who doesn't have job security or job fulfillment the other issues we've been facing that families have also faced with us is the changes to the inclusion support program and the subsidy program on March 19 when childcare services were suspended, all children who had inclusion supports or all families who had subsidy were cancelled. All had to reapply if they had a space as an essential service or frontline health And even then, the barriers were so immense that centres had to fight for over a month to get the same funding back in place so that child could restart attending — even if it was the same centre they were going to two weeks prior all of these were attempts to save money. And it's not acceptable as a workforce that our government is making our families and our children go through unexpected and unnecessary hurdles when we have our own commitment publicly that children are a priority in our province.

What do we need in the future? What do we need moving forward from here? We need our provincial government to actually offer us solutions both financial and funding so we need stable funding that we can move forward with and improve our sector. But we also need specific COVID relief so that we can make it through the COVID crisis without going bankrupt. We need families to understand the crisis that we are in so that they can support us in making the government make decisions that are in the best interest of their children or their community's children because we can't do it without them. It's amazing to me to see the power of families in even the decisions that were changed for the education reopening plan and going back two weeks earlier or on September 8 the power of a giant voice speaking out makes change with our government so we need that now for the childcare sector.

I'm not sure if I've had my one-minute yet? Rebecca? I'm good? Okay. Some other things I would like to talk to you guys about is, what can parents do specifically to help us other than what we are going to talk about in the petition Call your director call your childcare provider, call your family home childcare provider and ask them "What can I do? What can I say? How can I help?" Because if you ask those questions, they will give answers they will tell you exactly what they need and join forces with them. Make as many phone calls as many emails as you can to your MLAs and it will make a difference.

REBECCA: One minute.

LAURA: Okay. I think I'm done if you want to move on to the next one, Rebecca, I talked way too fast!

REBECCA: No, you did phenomenal! Thanks.

LAURA: Thank you.

REBECCA: Loved it. Kept us interested. For those people who are just joining us, this is Childcare is Essential's Town Hall on childcare in Manitoba. So one of our biggest goals is to educate the general public on why childcare is so important, on how we are being affected right now and how it's being brought to light during COVID pandemic. And I ask for your support, ask for your voices in helping us to make change. So we have invited a whole panel of experts, to help us along with that. At the end we are going to have a little bit of time for questions and we have a draw for two Oh Doughnuts gift certificates. So please stay tuned. Next up we have Jennifer Collette she is a chairperson, so daycare — there is a director and daycares are run by a board. Jennifer is the chair of her board at Busy Nest Day Care in Morris, Manitoba. Thank you for rural voice here today. [Crosstalk]

REBECCA: Hi Rebecca, hi everybody, thanks for having me, really excited that we are having this conversation For our board and our centre and lots of people in childcare who have been having this conversation for a very long time. And I am really glad that it's gaining some traction and I really do think the time is now to really blow this out of the water. Before COVID hit I actually a question that I always asked people was "What would you do without childcare for one day?" You would probably call in sick. "What would you do without childcare for one week?" maybe you would ask a friend? Or maybe someone who is around you like you are on Who Wants to be a Millionaire or something like that. "What would you do without childcare for one month?" Well, we all found out. What you would do without childcare for a month when COVID hit? And I think those are really important questions to ask I think if we have learned anything during this time it's that the current system is broken, with the minimal operating grants that we receive.

There are centres that aren't going to make it through this. Actually, if we would have been in the situation we were about three years ago when I joined the board, our doors would be closed already. We were lucky and fortunate that we were — are in a better financial situation when COVID hit because this — we would have not made it through that. The funding model isn't where it needs to be. The fact that operating grants have been frozen for four years, it's not good. It's led centres to have huge goals for fundraising in their budgets, to upwards of $10,000 to cover costs. I remember when I joined the board, going "so we are going to raise $10,000? And what is that going to cover?" And I remember someone saying to me "Staff wages." I went, "What?" You know what? It's not sustainable, and you know parents are also tapped out and people's KitchenAid mixers can't make one million dollars in brownies it's — it just doesn't work that way. [Laughing.]

I think, secondly, I call on the government to understand the importance of quality early learning. We know that children under 5 are experiencing the most rapid period of growth in their lifetime during that time, and you know someone told me that if you don't tell your story, someone else will tell it for you. And I think this is really important that we are having this Childcare is Essential campaign because I feel as though there is there is two different stories that are circulating around about this time in kids' lives. And this — there is two stories and one of them is the daycare story and one of them is the quality early learning story. And I think we need to be clear that those things are actually two different — two very different stories! During COVID I actually made alternate arrangements before the centre closed because I didn't know if I was going to have care and I actually was going "Okay, well I don't know what I'm going to do!" Although I had a fabulous babysitter during that time! [Laughing.] Daycare is someone providing care to your children throughout the day, that is what that is. Quality early learning is purposeful, intentional, programming that focuses on developmentally appropriate activities for children by trained professionals who obtain and early education degree and attend a post-secondary institution to get that.

So I think we need to be very clear that those are two different conversations. And I think for me and I am just asking the government to invest in this time and understand the importance of this time kids don't start learning the day they start Kindergarten. And I think we just — you know it's an easy solution for — for, you know, the provincial government to think about how many people we can fit in a building. That's an easy problem to solve. We need to do what is best for kids. When we know better we do need to do better. And for me I am getting just. We need parents to start telling their story. And how quality early learning plays a role in the functioning of their family life. And just calling their MLAs and their civic leaders and letting them know how it affects them. We have a picture in our centre where there was a whole bunch of community members helping when our centre opened because people must once decided they deserve to go to work. And you know what? That picture keeps me going every day, it's one of the reasons why I am so passionate about it [as a] working mom, I'm proud of it, it makes me a better person, it makes me a better mom, it makes me a better parent. And we need to really invest in quality early learning for kids. It's so important, so important. I think you waved at me so that means I should stop?

REBECCA: That was your five minute warning.

JENNIFER: Five minutes! Oh, my goodness.

REBECCA: You've got about three minutes left if you want them.

JENNIFER: And you know what? The other part that Laura Burla already kind of touched on was that, you know, centres actually weren't prepared for a pandemic and I don't think most businesses are prepared for pandemics and you know one of the things that we're talking about is as they're saying, "Yeah, increase those numbers to 24!" We're saying, "Huh!" We don't have the STAFF to do that? It is actually taking quite a bit of we haven't budgeted to have extra cleaners on — on staff it's taking a whole staff member just to screen people in and out the door. We are not like a school, we don't have a secretary sitting there. [Laughing.] It's different, right? And everybody is [inaudible] at all times! So! It does pose problems in trying to follow public health guidelines which we need to do and honour but also run a business. Right? And — and run a program. So, yeah.

And providing dollars for the PPE and sanitation. Yeah, that's in nobody's budgets. And you know, it's interesting, we we just submitted our budget and one of the things we talked about as a board was "What do we submit?" We have 6 budgets. We have 6 possible budgets because we've just, we could do this. Should we cut the hot lunch program? How do we save money? How do we, you know, and all these important conversations and when we said, "What if we ran our program the way it should be run — paying people competitive market salaries, scales, offering a hot lunch nutrition program because that's the right thing to do, paying people what they're worth, not having staff bring stickers to work, we should be paying for that. You know what, what if we ran it the way it SHOULD be run?" And you know what that was? That was a $97,000 deficit. And I'm proud that we submitted that budget because that is the true cost of childcare in Manitoba And you know what? I'm — I am very proud that we have a director who is also very passionate about quality early learning and it has really, inspired our board to speak up for what is right in Manitoba and for childcare across Canada, actually and it's — yeah, it's been an interesting time! I've learned a lot and so, so thankful that I could be part of this conversation. Thank you, Rebecca.

REBECCA: Amazing. Thank you so much. Again. Uh, for anyone that is coming on late, this is Childcare is Essential's Town Hall, to help us inform the parents, general public about childcare in Manitoba and why we need your collective voices now. At the end we have one more speaker, and at the end we will have a little bit of time for questions and as well as our draw for two Oh Doughnuts gift certificates depending on who — based on who, commented on our post earlier in the week. Okay. So that is that. Next up we got Carmen Smith. We've been talking so much about why it's important that parents get involved and Carmen's really been a model parent involved in her centre and [inaudible] I'm sure you'll speak to that Carmen but we're really thankful to have those voices here, uh, and we hope this [inaudible] to for us to hear your voices as well. So Carmen Smith is the chair of her board as well, Freight House. At Freight House Early Learning and Care Centre. And a parent. And we are so excited to hear from you Carmen, thank you.

CARMEN: Thank you for having me. So today I am going to speak a little bit about why we are advocating for our particular vision what is best for our kids and what's best for our communities. So when I was, I've been a parent for — for a daycare for, Freight House for many years all my children have gone through it and my oldest is 26 and she started there when she was, like, 18 months, so I've been involved for many, many years and, What I would like to share is the quality of childcare that children need and they thrive on to grow and become the best little person that they can be and with that being — with saying or — with saying that they become the best adult as well.

I would just like to share a little story about my youngest son. He is 6 years old and when he came into my family at four-and-a-half months, so he is not biologically mine but I raise him as my own and he started at daycare soon after that when he first came into our family. He was like a little wet noodle — like, he could not hold himself up. He couldn't hold up his head, he was very tiny and so we had to take him to physiotherapy. Uh, but working full time my husband and I, we couldn't really spend the days with him so it was at daycare and I am SO thankful that daycare stepped up and they took him as his own and they helped him they did physiotherapy every day throughout the day with him and you should see him now like he's not the same little guy he was before. He just thrives, like, he's just a strong little guy now. And I believe that it's from daycare, being cared for and with saying that, daycare is more than just babysitters, like they are not babysitters they are they become family. They become part of our families. And sorry, I'm just emotional. Emotional, sharing that.

But the daycare workers they are more than just employees they become, like I said, part of my family they are so happy to see the kids when they walk in through the doors and seeing kids go through childcare and like I have been involved in the community for many, many years and I see these kids that were small at daycare at one time, they are now having their own children in daycare because they are going to school and they are having really good jobs so that is really nice to see and that is really important to have that quality, affordable public childcare and it just benefits everybody in our communities. So, it's really awesome to see childcare employees in a centre that are committed. Even though they struggle financially themselves, they stay because they feel that — and this is my opinion — I feel that they feel that that is where they are needed which is actually really true, they are needed they are stable, they are committed, they are loving and caring, And I have seen many, many things throughout my years at Freight House with the kind of care that they provide our children. And It's really nice to see and hear all the employees when they see kids first thing in the morning when they bring them in, into the doors. And it's like they've never seen them for a really long time even though it was just yesterday, the day before they seen them, they give them hugs, and all that and children thrive when you give them really good quality high quality care and it's really nice to see these children celebrated each day and they are encouraged to use and bring their unique gifts and they feel that they are part of something.

And their identity is really nurtured. And I see, like I said I seen many things throughout my years at Freight House, like how the workers go above and beyond. Sharing their time with each and every child. And they spend time and they teach them everything, like my one. My daughter One of my daughters, when she was tree years old, she was a fluent reader, like they spend lots of time with her and she picked it up really quickly, tree years old she was reading fluently, and now — she's now 20 years old, gonna be heading to university so it's really it's really rich, the quality of education that they give each children. How they bring the outdoors indoors and they study everything like, bringing insects in, or little bugs and my little uh, four-year-old daughter my youngest, she is not afraid of bugs, she'll go and she'll have she has this little magnifying glass and she just goes and finds a little ant, and she'll put him in the little glass there, the jar and just watches, like it's really awesome and that's strictly from the kind of childcare that they receive throughout the days. Like as a community, like I said, I see these, young adult parents their children are coming to childcare as well, so that is really nice to see and it's really — we need to celebrate that. We need to continue that, and We need to find ways that We can shorten these wait lists. Wait lists. We need to find more centres. High-quality centres. That [crosstalk]

Rebecca: One minute, Carmen.

Carmen: Okay, thank you. That went by so quick! [Laughing.] So. I think that the community's like the poverty would be well, I don't want to say resolved, but it would help and I think we would not have poverty in our communities if we had high quality childcare that is affordable for all families, all children. And I think all children need to go to childcare just so they can become social better kind hearted people that we need to create for this world we live in so. I think that's all I need to say.

REBECCA: That was stunning. Cried a few times, I'm not sure if anyone else did, when I worked in Point Douglas, we did a research project where we took away one of the barriers to getting childcare where you have to be working or in school in order to get a space anyone could get a space we took that barrier away and we gave everyone a space. When we open that daycare there is two parents working full time. Five years later, there are three parents not working, out of 17 families. It's really a hand up and it's a tangible way to encourage equity in our province. And an equitable start and it's not only education it's also health, it also affects health. [Papers rustle.] I could go on for days. But we'd need a whole second town hall here okay, thank you guys so, so much, it's been phenomenal I think we'll go with some questions. So if a few that have come in I'm going to call on your guys just like I had mentioned, just pulling them up. Okay. Two questions I have, first one, if someone feels like they want to answer maybe throw up a hand, other wise I'll call you guys out.

Why our wages are so low for ECEs? I feel like Susan, you could jump on it? Yeah. [Laughing.] Kate, are you able to unmute Susan or [crosstalk]

SUSAN: I'm ready to go. So this goes back to the very conception that childcare is a service that you should buy and that you should pay for. And so when you buy and pay for it that's the revenue. So the revenue is parent fee. In Manitoba actually, we do a not-so-bad job, parents pay about 58% on average of all the revenue that a centre gets and government operating grants are 42% of all the revenue But... for there to be more money one of two things has to happen either parents have to pay more, and that's already very hard or, governments have to be willing to pay more and we figured out a long time ago that if we want to have good public education then we need well-trained teachers and we need schools in every community but we haven't come to that understanding yet for early learning and childcare so it's a market model and we have governments that don't want to invest I think that the idea and the Minister of Family said it recently, Heather Stevenson said something along the lines of "You know, in this pandemic we figured out how important childcare is why we don't even want to think of it as a social service anymore," right? Because I think they think that money in social services you just dig a big hole and you throw the money in the hole and it goes nowhere, right? And, it's sexism. Because we think that women just naturally know how to take care of children they hardly need training, they love it so much, they'll just do it for love, and so you can pay them crummy wages and they'll just keep doing it for love and they'll happily ECEs are some of the biggest hearted people you'll ever meet and they do in fact stay in a field where they don't get worthy wages but that is NOT fair, and it shouldn't be tolerated, and I hope it isn't tolerated, because it is just wrong.

REBECCA: Thank you so much. Okay, I'm going to do one more, and then I'm going to do probably our draw! So, Okay, this question is around subsidy, I guess I'm looking for more of a comment from someone, or if someone can help to fill it in a parent is saying that they want better wages for ECEs, and they, as a single mother, didn't qualify for subsidies why would somebody not qualify for subsidy? How does that model work, I guess? I feel like Laura, you! [Laughing.]

LAURA: So, the problem with subsidy right now is the household income level, that qualifies family for, a family for the subsidy program is too low, so the barrier is the government has set that rate too low for families who actually need subsidy to be able to access subsidy The fix for that is to overhaul the subsidy program and make it, uh, accessible to families who truly need it, that includes families who need it for more reasons than just employment or school, families who need childcare but can't afford it, say, for mental health reasons, or who are suffering through, like — life threatening illness. All of these are reasons why a child needs childcare and a family can't afford it there needs to be a system in place to help them with that. So the long and the short of it is the government has to change the barriers uh, so more families can access subsidy, both from an income level and from, a need-based level.

REBECCA: Okay. Awesome, thank you so much. Okay! I think we're going to jump into a draw and a closing I'm so thankful to have you guys, It's really effective, I'm just so thankful. One of the other questions was around how can parents help? You know, being vocal learning what you can about the system the system is complicated, and it's by design it is complicated and they know it's complicated. They really benefit from the general public "They." [Laughing.] Governments really benefit from the general public not really understanding a complicated system So, the more we can get involved, ask questions, ask your MLAs, talk to people about it and get as much information as you can. And ask for action! Those are the kinds of things you can do. Recommit ourselves to doing what we can to inform you guys. please sign our petition at www.childcareisessential.ca and recommit ourselves to helping give you actions give you tools to be the most effective advocates as parents, community members, allies, as you can be And I appreciate that question, I appreciate people's desire to help it means a lot. As an ECE and a mother and someone who really believes in childcare at the heart of it.

Okay! So here is my baby's hat! Uh, we had about 17 or so entries, I think more actually, maybe 19 or 20 entries, and I am going to pick, ooh! That one was ready! So this is, Lynn Milne-Martin [Laughing.] It's very mmm… sorry. Lynn Milne-Martin and I will tag you guys again on the Facebook page after this so put that one aside, and then we got one more gift certificate, so. [Paper rustling.] It is Lisa Michelle, so we got $20 dollars for you guys from Oh Doughnuts, please treat yourselves. Thank you guys so much. In closing, again I just can't reiterate enough that we personally invite every person watching this to sign the petition and volunteer through our website. Your signature is a commitment to staying informed, and helping us along the way where you see fit and to get involved in this campaign. This is something that's going to be long-term and our voices are just getting louder and stronger, with the numbers that we accrue.

This is a grassroots movement and I'm setting a kind but firm reminder that the government works for us. Our success is directly related to how many of us are actively working together towards this this is not just a parent problem, or a female problem, this is an equity and equality and a betterment of our whole society and all of our children, children are all of our responsibilities and I think we see that. I think there's a really good movement coming, and that the energy has been phenomenal and the uptake has been uh, really inspiring, so I am so so thankful for everyone to be here today. Maarsi, ayhay, chi-miigwech. Thank you guys so much for being here, I'm through the moon, thank you Laura, thank you Susan, thank you Carmen, thank you Jennifer. Bye! Let me just turn off the live [Laughing.]