Thousands of Quebecers took part in rallies in 18 cities across the province Sunday denouncing $120 million in cuts to subsidized daycares.

In Montreal, the throng of activists gathered at Emilie-Gamelin Park, where they demanded the Liberal government invest in education and daycare.

The proposed cuts this year come after another lean year, where public daycares absorbed $74 million in cuts.

“We will not be able to maintain quality childcare if we have budget cuts further than we've already had,” said Athena Zenos, director of CPE Vanier.
Organized by the Quebec Association of Early Childhood Centres, the largest group of CPEs, members of the Parti Quebecois and Quebec solidaire were also there in support.

The association’s president Louis Senecal said the cuts threaten between 2,000 and 2,500 jobs. He argues the government has made a policy choice that no longer holds given that public finances have improved and Quebec is now showing a surplus.

CPE workers say the cuts may mean employing less qualified staff. It could also lead to higher ratios of children and educators. They may have to provide less nutritious meals, and offerings including toys, field trips and special activities could be affected.

The Quebec Association of Early Childhood Centres also pointed out that the new rates indexed by income will mean the sector will gain another $170 million from parents.

Last year the province also moved away from the fixed $7 a day fee to a sliding-scale plan. Parents now pay anywhere from $7.30 to $20 per day depending on income.

Parents are paying more, but will be getting less, said Gina Gasparrini, president of the Quebec Association of CPEs.

“They're going to be paying $169 million extra in daycare fees, but will be getting $120 million less in services. So the parents are facing a double whammy,” she said.

Parti Quebecois Pierre Karl Peladeau took part in the rally.

“This is a great institution, unfortunately today, what we have is a government that wants to dismantle it,” he said.

Families Minister Francine Charbonneau’s officeprovided the following statement by email.

“Quebec parents currently pay the lowest fees for daycare compared to the rest of Canada. Many here feel it's just a matter of priorities,” it read.

With files from La Presse Canadienne