Nova Scotia businesses shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic can begin reopening on June 5, but that’s 10 full days before the province will allow licensed child-care centres to open and that has some calling the reopening plan backward.
NDP education critic Claudia Chender says the reopening plan for the economy is a case of putting the cart before the horse.
“Someone is going to have to stay home and take care of that child or those children and most often because of the structural inequalities in our communities, because of the pay differential that will be women,” said Chender.
Businesses like restaurants and bars, gyms, barbershops, and salons and tattoo parlous to name a few, will all be allowed to reopen next Friday, but the NDP says without child-care provisions in place it will leave thousands of workers, especially women, out of the first stage of the recovery plan.
“The McNeil Liberals are out of touch if they think people can return to work when regulated child care and schools are closed, and day camps have largely been cancelled,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill in a statement.
“Many parents and caregivers will be forced out of their jobs because they need to take care of their children. It’s not right and we can do better than this.”
Even some private or unlicensed daycare operators like Hannah Munday are feeling left in the dark when it comes to reopening plans for daycares, in particular, regarding safety protocol and guidelines.
Munday said she reached out to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for some answers but came away with more questions.
“They (Deparment of Education) told me, ‘Well… that’s being shared with licensed facilities and then it eventually will trickle down.’ That was essentially the message that I got,” said Munday. “So then this week I sent the same message request to Public Health and I haven’t heard back at all.”
Munday says she’s consulting guidelines posted in other provinces like British Columbia, where they’ve already opened child-care centres.
In Nova Scotia access to child care has been an issue long before the pandemic and it hasn’t gone away, said single parent and medical doctor Monika Dutt.
“I don’t know that anyone is finding child care organically,” said Dutt. “It’s taking effort and time and for many people a lot of money that they may or may not have. I think it’s definitely a challenge.”
Chender says it’s important for the government to reopen the economy while not leaving anyone behind.
“We have to explicitly take women into account when we open things back up,” she said. “Because if we don’t, we are going to lose thousands of women from the workforce and potentially permanently.”
In a statement to Global News, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said Public Health continues to work with the child care sector on a plan to reopen safely.
“Public health continues to work with the child care sector on a plan to reopen safely. They are working on a plan targeting June 15 and it will be shared with Nova Scotians once the plan is fully approved. The safety of children and staff remains central to our planning.”