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ON: Early Learning Program at Risk?


(TORONTO)

Dear Premier:

I am writing you this open letter with increasing concern about the implementation and ultimate success of the Early Learning Program (ELP) being introduced by your government this fall. The families and children that rely on the child care system and those that work to deliver these important programs need your government to provide leadership to ensure the successful introduction of this important social program.

We believe your government is doing the right thing by introducing the new Early Learning Program. Early learning and care is a progressive social policy, one that is positive for children's emotional, social, and educational development. It is good for Ontario’s families, our economy and one of the key planks of a provincial anti-poverty strategy.

Like your government, and early learning education and child care advocates, CUPE Ontario wants ELP to succeed. Integral to the success of the plan is the full integration of the Early Learning Program into public schools across the province.

The recent announcement that moved all child care programs along with the Early Learning Program into the Early Learning Division of the Ministry of Education is welcome. However, we are concerned that, even with these recent announcements, the Early Learning Program is not headed toward the kind of success we all want to see.

A clear and public implementation timeline is necessary now. Ontario’s young families, the child care community, school boards and workers in the child care and school board sectors, need a context for the announcements and changes that are to take place over the next five years.

The parties involved must know what program changes will be taking place and when these changes will occur. Families need this information to make informed decisions about their children’s development and care. Workers need this information to make career decisions and alleviate the high level of anxiety in the field. Administrators need this information to best be able to plan to meet the demands these changes will be placing on their organizations.

In the absence of a clear and public implementation timeline, we are particularly concerned that:

  • There is a lack of transparency in funding. Even with the announcements to date, it remains unclear if all wage grant monies will remain in the municipal and community-based programs to assist with program sustainability rather than being transferred into the full-day early learning program and subsidy monies.

  • Further, the transition monies are not adequate to ensure even that current levels of community and municipal programs are maintained, assist programs to adjust to the loss of the 4- and 5-year-old programs, assist with retrofitting program space for younger age programming and prevent the need to introduce higher parent fees.

  • Increasingly, school boards, who are unable to operate with deficit budgets, are expressing concerns about inadequate resources to implement the first phase of ELP. Boards have indicated that the current resources do not provide adequate funding to provide the full program.

  • The extended-day provisions of the ELP, an integral component to the program’s success, are being challenged by some school boards who are setting high user fees for care for a program that is intended to be cost-recovery based. The provision of extended year early learning and care, including program delivery for March Break, professional development days, and summer, has not been offered by any board. To date, we have not seen a school board publically commit to a program consistent with the full vision of early learning and care as set out in either the Pascal Report or Bill 242.

  • Workers in the child care sector, and new early childhood educators (ECEs) in the education sector, are being placed in untenable situations where they are forced to make major career choices without the benefit of a clear picture of what the government intends as the ultimate delivery model for early learning in Ontario.

    In the absence of a comprehensive timeline for implementation, it appears that the Pascal blueprint is being cherry-picked from and under-resourced. This is not only disadvantaging municipal and community-based child care which should be enhanced by Pascal’s vision, it is putting the entire ELP program in jeopardy by not funding it to succeed.

    Parents are saying that, unless they are offered quality, affordable, school-based extended-day and year-round programs, there will be little incentive to enroll their children in ELP programs.

    CUPE Ontario will continue to support the Pascal vision for early learning and care, and will work with your government to find solutions that yield a quality program. We represent nearly 230,000 members, many of whom are parents, who rely on quality, accessible child care in order to work, attend school and re-train for new economy jobs. CUPE also represents the majority of unionized early childhood educators (ECEs) , early childhood assistants (ECAs) and educational assistants (EAs) in hundreds of school, municipal and community-based workplaces.

    Strong leadership from your government is needed to make the ELP a success and ensure its introduction is not at the cost of the broader child care system. Releasing resources piecemeal, at levels that do not meet the level needed for success, is not the answer.

    CUPE Ontario is looking to your government and the Ministry of Education to play an activist role to ensure the ELP implementation encompasses Pascal’s full vision, including extended-day and year-round programming.

    Further, we are looking to your government to ensure the child care sector, as a whole, is supported through this transition to ensure a healthy and sustainable system. That’s what Ontario families want and need. It’s what the economy needs and what your government needs to introduce as part of a comprehensive anti-poverty plan. Failure to act in a clear, decisive, and focused way could well mean the program will not succeed.

    Sincerely,

    Fred Hahn
    President
    Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario

    BC: Living Wage Law a Positive Step to Fight Poverty


    (NEW WESTMINSTER) A British Columbia city council adopted the first municipal living wage policy in Canada last night – a move that will hopefully become a standard for cities across the country.

    The New Westminster City Council voted unanimously yesterday for a living wage bylaw based on a calculation of the hourly wage required to keep a family with two children and two working parents above the poverty line.

    “This is a great example of the important role municipal governments can play in reducing poverty in their communities and across Canada,” said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) .

    New Westminster’s living wage policy will apply to both full-time and part-time employees, and will apply to both direct staff and to contractors performing physical work on City properties.

    The Hospital Employees Union (HEU) , the health care services division of CUPE in BC, has led a living wage campaign in the province since 2007. The campaign calls on government and health authorities to ensure their private contractors pay a living wage.

    To raise awareness in the Vancouver area, the union has partnered with the Metro Vancouver Living Wage for Families Campaign. The New Westminster decision is a great win for the coalition of community organizations.

    “Raising the incomes of poor families creates stronger communities, both socially and economically,” said Moist. “New Westminster has set a strong example for cities across the country.”

    MB: Invests in Literacy and Essential Skills Project for Older Workers and Employers


    (WINNIPEG) Local businesses and older workers will benefit from a Government of Canada investment in a literacy and essential skills development project. The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety and Member of Parliament for Provencher, made the announcement today on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

    "Our government is committed to working with partners to improve literacy and other essential skills to ensure that Canadians are equipped to get jobs and build better futures," said Minister Toews. "In today's economic environment, it is more important than ever that older workers have the skills they need to participate in the job market."

    The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce will receive over $2.3 million for its ThirdQuarter project, through the Community Partnerships for Labour Market Challenges - Employment Insurance Part II program. ThirdQuarter is an online, community-based pilot project that aims to help workers over age 50 access the tools and resources they need to assess and improve their literacy and essential skills. It will also serve as a recruitment tool for employers in rural and small communities in four Canadian regions.

    While the project is being piloted in communities with different social and economic circumstances in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces, it will lead to the creation of a model that can be successfully replicated in other regions across Canada.

    "Today, people turn 50 and aim for 100. At 50, they are just entering the third quarter of life and work. They bring emotional maturity, a strong work ethic and transferable essential skills to re-invest in the workplace, either in new fields or part-time," said Mr. Graham Starmer, President of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. "At the same time, business leaders worry about an impending labour shortage. ThirdQuarter.ca will help meet the needs of both groups and help the economy prosper in rural and small communities."

    The Government of Canada's Office of Literacy and Essential Skills works with partners such as provincial and territorial governments, employers and community organizations to provide Canadians with the tools and supports they need to maximize opportunities for themselves, their families and their communities.

    Improving adult Canadians' literacy and essential skills is a key part of the Government's commitment to create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.

    The Government underscored this commitment in Canada's Economic Action Plan. A key component of the Plan is to create more opportunities for Canadian workers through skills development.

    NT: Supplementary Health Benefits Program to be Finalized by Joint Working Group


    (YELLOWKNIFE) A joint working group composed of three regular Members of the Legislative Assembly and three Cabinet Ministers, including Minister of Health and Social Services Sandy Lee, has been created to finalize the Supplementary Health Benefits program implementation.

    The working group will use the principles of consensus government to ensure that the final program is available to all NWT residents. The focus of the group will be defining personal and employer responsibilities around uninsured health care and third party insurance, ensuring that a safety net is created for residents who accrue high health care costs, and defining catastrophic coverage. The group will report to Cabinet and the Standing Committee on Policy and Planning (SCOPP) in June of this year to ensure an implementation date on or before November 1, 2010.

    “This is an opportunity to move this program forward positively, within the spirit of consensus government,” said MLA for Hay River South Jane Groenewegen, the chair of SCOPP. “I look forward to the results that the group will produce.”

    “Our priority has been to expand access to Supplementary Health Benefits for those in greatest need,” said Minister Lee. “I am pleased to see that we can all work together to advance this important issue.”

    AB: New Scholarship will Help Students Reach for Excellence at International Skills Competitions


    (EDMONTON) Building on the legacy of WorldSkills Calgary 2009 and following in the footsteps of Canada’s Olympic success, a new scholarship will help Alberta students own the podium at national and international skills competitions.

    The WorldSkills Legacy Scholarships will award students with up to $10,000 each as they progress through levels of competition and prepare to compete on the international stage. Students who win gold at the provincial and national levels will be awarded $500 each towards their post-secondary education. Those who go on to represent Canada at the bi-annual WorldSkills Competition will receive an additional $9,000 to support their training as they prepare to go head-to-head with the best in the world.

    An estimated 86 scholarships, totaling $75,000 will be awarded annually starting with this year’s Team Alberta gold medalists.

    “We’re committed to working with Skills Canada to help build our province’s next generation workforce and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead,” said Doug Horner, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. “The WorldSkills scholarships will help Alberta students and apprentices set a gold standard in provincial, national and international competition and reach success in their career paths.”

    WorldSkills Calgary 2009 is contributing more than $1.4 million to the Government of Alberta's Heritage Scholarship Fund to support the scholarships.

    “We’re proud to partner with the Government of Alberta to recognize the exceptional skills of our youth and support students participating in these important skills competitions,” said Peter Lawlor, President of Skills Canada Alberta. “By promoting these dynamic careers, we are developing the future leaders of Alberta’s skilled workforce.”

    Every year, hundreds of students and apprentices aged 21 and under gather from across Alberta and Canada to compete against demanding industry-developed standards in fields ranging from hairstyling to welding in regional, provincial and national competitions. Every two years, competitors representing the best of their peers from national skills competitions compete at WorldSkills. WorldSkills Calgary 2009 featured eight Albertans on Team Canada and more than 1,000 participants from 51 countries. WorldSkills 2011 will take place in London, England.

    Alberta’s Heritage Scholarship fund offers 50 different scholarships. The fund will award $70.8 million to 37,500 students this year.

    NS: Investment Makes Job Skills Programs More Accessible


    (KENTVILLE) The province announced a $550,000 investment today, May 21, for a new centre in Kentville that will grow the economy by helping people find work.

    The funding for the PeopleWorx Society, a non-profit organization helping people develop essential skills for today's job market, will go towards construction of the Kings Opportunity Service Centre. Offering a complete range of professional services, the society helps people reach their personal, educational and employment potential.

    "We are committed to getting the province back to balance and one way we are doing that is by making strategic investments that will improve our workforce," said Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse. "PeopleWorx has a proven track record of helping Nova Scotians enter the workforce or improve their job status. This investment will make life better for families."

    The new building will bring together the PeopleWorx Annapolis Valley Work Center, Kings Employment Counselling, Community Service's Job Finder's Club and Career Resource Center and the Continuing Care Assistant program under one roof.

    PeopleWorx first opened its doors in 1986 and offers programs and services in employment counselling, enhanced reading levels, and job search skills. But its real impact is found in the renewed sense of confidence its students leave with.

    "Coming to the work center really helped me be me," said Debbie MacInnes a recent graduate and May 2010 valedictorian of the program. "I now have a strong foundation and a new direction, only this time I am more confident, more educated and much prouder."

    Construction of the $2.4 million, 18,000 square foot facility, will begin this spring and is expected to open in the fall.

    "The Kings Opportunity Service Centre is a much anticipated addition to our community," said Bill Travis executive director, PeopleWorx Society. "The centre will improve the quality of employment services and help residents become more successful in the job market."

    NB: Province Supports 70 Jobs at Information Technology Firm


    (FREDERICTON) The provincial government is investing up to $560,000 in payroll rebates to help Q1 Labs Canada Inc. hire up to 70 new employees, including technical and sales positions, at its Fredericton and Saint John locations. Q1 Labs is also planning to expand its research and development centre in Fredericton.

    The announcement was made at the company's Fredericton office by Finance Minister Greg Byrne and Chris Fanjoy, senior vice-president, engineering, Q1 Labs Canada Inc.

    "Our province has had real success attracting global information technology companies, and our investment in Q1 Labs Canada Inc. is evidence of this company's potential for future expansion in New Brunswick," said Byrne. "Q1 Labs Canada Inc. is an international firm with leading-edge products and a growing client base, and its commitment to growth in New Brunswick signals to the world that New Brunswick is the place to be for information and communication technology."

    Byrne spoke on behalf of Business New Brunswick Minister Victor Boudreau.

    Q1 Labs Canada Inc. is a subsidiary of Q1 Labs Inc., based in Massachusetts. The company is a global provider of security intelligence software. It employs more than 70 in Fredericton and Saint John, and it has offices in the United States and Europe. It recently announced plans to open a new office in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    "Two years ago, we were pleased to create a new, larger research and development centre in Fredericton," said Fanjoy. "This new facility allowed us to contribute to our company's rapid growth and develop innovate solutions and services for our customers. Today, we are pleased to be partnering with the provincial government to continue our expansion in this province, which includes hiring more skilled New Brunswickers and maintaining a centre of excellence with the University of New Brunswick as we focus on security intelligence-related research."

    Q1 Labs Canada Inc. is the latest technology firm to expand in New Brunswick. Other companies have included Computer Generated Solutions Canada Ltd.; Research In Motion; Agfa Healthcare Inc.; and Fredericton Fantastic Network North America.

    "Our government is driven to support companies that will, in return, play a significant role in our provincial economic growth strategy," said Byrne. "Q1 Labs Canada Inc. is a global business that emphasizes its commitment to academic collaboration and forward-thinking research initiatives, and we are proud that is has chosen to be a part of New Brunswick's growing information technology community and add to our province's reputation as Canada's smart province."


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