On Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day we owe them action 

On June 8th, the government of Nova Scotia proclaimed June 9th, 2022, to be the inaugural “Early Childhood Educators Appreciation Day.” In this statement, government acknowledged that “our children deserve the best possible start in life to help them develop to their full potential,” and acknowledged that this happens through the “important service that Early Childhood Educators provide.”

We know that Early Childhood Educators are the heart of the system, and we are pleased to see this acknowledged on the inaugural ECE Appreciation day, as well as identified in the bilateral agreement. It is unconscionable to continue hastily moving forward while acknowledging this without ensuring any change to their wages and benefits for seventeen additional months following the signing of the agreement.

To acknowledge the pivotal role that Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) provide by saying ‘we appreciate you,’ without acknowledging the critical state of the sector is unacceptable. We owe ECEs more than a thank you for continuing to work on the front lines, under-resourced and underpaid as they create the system transformation government promised. 

We owe them action.

We are moving forward on other elements of the agreement, a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives placed us on target to meet the first round of fee reductions, and on June 1st, in a joint statement the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia announced the creation of 1,500 new early learning and child care spaces by December 31, 2022. Of those spaces, 1,250 of those will operate in not-for-profit centres, with the remaining 250 operating out of seven licensed family home child care agencies.

This expansion will inevitably have a tremendous impact on our communities, and while we’re pleased for families and this step forward – we remain disappointed that Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are overtly left behind again.

We know that Early Learning and Child Care in Nova Scotia continues to operate in a critical state. Retention and recruitment have been at crisis levels for years due to a patchwork system that has been subsidized by and built on the backs of ECEs, many of whom work for low wages with no benefits. Governments repeated promises to develop the compensation framework outlined in the bilateral agreement and vague language in the workforce strategy both commit to addressing this issue by the end of 2022. We are pleased to see continuous forward movement on other elements of the agreement – but ECEs are noticeably left behind again and again.

We must remind government that there are no spaces without ECEs.

Even though Nova Scotia was the second province to sign the bilateral agreement that clearly outlines the importance of compensation in the development of the Canada Wide Childcare System, many other provinces have surpassed us by announcing clear plans forward. We must acknowledge the immeasurable role of ECEs and expedite compensation packages for the labour, skill, and expertise they bring to the planned expansions. Consistently emphasizing and relying on students and college programs will never be enough if we are not fixing the ongoing crisis, retaining the current staff, and elevating Early Childhood Education to a position that is a desirable career option. Early Childhood Education must be seen as a career that leads to financial independence.

We remain firmly committed to the critical role that ECEs play in the promised expansions and remind government that they must:

  • Raise wages effective immediately
  • Ensure all ECEs have access to benefits and pensions
  • Prioritize all ECEs access to paid sick leave

Let us be clear: the status quo was not working. It is long overdue that we work towards a comprehensive transformation from the current patchwork approach to a truly universal, publicly delivered system. We celebrate the steps we’ve taken forward building a system together – but affirm that we must do it right. We cannot do this without ECEs, and it’s time we acknowledge this and demand government do the same.

This Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day, show your appreciation by sending a letter to your MLA and demand that they expedite the compensation framework and benefits packages for Early Childhood Educators, and encourage your community to do the same: https://novascotia.childcarenow.ca/take-action/