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Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 126 members demonstrated outside of Peterborough’s City Hall ahead of the City Council budget meeting on Monday, January 13. This was in response to the potential closure of Pearson daycare and childcare center, which are municipal-run daycares. The potential closures were a result of financial cutbacks from the government of Ontario, in the form of subsidies for the daycare space, and other budgetary pressures. The issues brought up included women’s rights and wages and health impacts, among other issues. The majority of delegations at City Hall were about Pearson daycare, while others focused on climate change, the arts, housing, and poverty. The delegations took approximately four and a half hours, with people spilling into the overflow room.
Fred Hahn, the president of CUPE Ontario, was present to support 30 workers that would be impacted by a closure.
“Choose your community, unified in support of these child care centres, and not the cuts imposed on Peterborough by Doug Ford.”
Hahn also said that if these centers closed, there would be a barrier for women entering the workforce. This is due to the fact that women are considered to be the primary caregivers for children, indicating that there will be more than just 30 jobs that will be impacted.
“Closing these centers would undermine our collective fight for women’s economic equality, for pay equality,” he said.
Sheila Olan-Maclean, from Compass Early Learning and Care, said that closing Pearson would be disappointing as reaching Pearson’s wages is a goal to look up to. A privately-run daycare would not be able to afford to run the programs while paying their workers a living wage.
Jim Russell of United Way of Peterborough & District talked about United Way’s Annual Living wage report and the negative health impacts of lower wages. He said that one of largest impacts on health is income, which impacts health, due to food insecurity, stress, and difficulty accessing health care.
“The poorer you are, the sooner you will die of chronic disease,” Russell said.
He noted that the living wage is $17.63, and allows someone to cover basic expenses and the ability to participate in their community.
“The idea that I can communicate with my city councilor, [to] be heard and respected [and to] have my concerns addressed in a meaningful and accountable way, is the exact reason that I believe strongly that municipally-run child services must be maintained and fostered as an investment in our community…” said Jill Staveley. Staveley also talked about the need for a crossing guard near Queen Mary school, which was supported by the Council.
Kevin Elson said, “With 11,000 names on the waitlist, it is abhorrent to consider closing 300 spaces … A third-party operator could open tomorrow with 500 spaces and there would still be demand for 600 more.”
In addition to this, parents have spoken about the differences they saw in their personal experiences between privately run daycares and Peterborough’s city-run daycares.
According to Joelle Kovach at the Peterborough Examiner, Councillors supported keeping the daycare open with a property tax increase of 0.13 percent from a previously proposed tax increase. There will be a final vote on January 27.