Dear Premier Ford & Minister Lecce,
The expansion of eligibility to include more frontline workers for the province’s emergency child care program on January 9 is a welcome acknowledgment of the wide range of brave people who are keeping our society going in this difficult time. In the context of extended school closures, this was a sensible step.
However, we encourage the expansion of this list to further capture those who continue to keep our economy going and also need the assistance during this challenging time. This would include workers such as:
- Grocery workers
- Public transit workers
- Taxi drivers
- Telecommunications workers
- Other critical supply chain workers
Emergency child care services can only be provided with robust health and safety support and protections and we encourage continued action on this front. This positive step of expanding emergency child care services must be placed in the context of a very fragile system of child care. We also urge the government to ensure that it continues to work with First Nations to implement emergency child care centres in communities across the province.
More broadly, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc: with the record numbers of COVID-19 cases during the second wave, challenges with the rollout of vaccinations, and further school closures, Ontarians are feeling as vulnerable as ever. In order to bring some level of stability and financial support for all workers, the government must continue to do more.
Ontarians are looking for concrete commitments to ensure that workers and students are supported when public schools can safely re-open. This includes steps to establish smaller classroom sizes, broader testing, and urgent ventilation improvements. The government should also implement permanent paid sick days for workers, with additional sick days during public health emergencies.
The January 9 announcement makes it clear that everyone relies on someone who relies on child care. Unifor urges the government to expand eligibility further, while implementing additional measures that will help parents, students, workers and all Ontarians get through this pandemic.
Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director