ECE Appreciation Day Interview with Unifor member Lisa Gentile

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The following is an interview with Early Childhood Educator Lisa Gentile about the state of child care and what motivates her in her work. Lisa is a longtime worker at Town Day Care in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and a member of Unifor Local 4600.

Unifor thanks Lisa and every Early Childhood Educator for the work they do to care for and educate children, and to enable more parents to work outside the home.

Unifor: What has it been like for you to see the roll-out of the Federal Early Learning and Child Care plan in Nova Scotia?

Lisa: I have been in the field for 43 years, so this has been a long, slow process that we’ve been fighting for decades.

Since day one of being hired by Sharon Hope Irwin, who is a huge advocate for national child care, I have been involved in this fight.

I’m so frustrated with our Nova Scotia Government and the continued delays.

We came very close to a federal child care plan in 2005 that the Federal Liberals under Paul Martin had negotiated with all ten provinces. Then-Minister Ken Dryden was at our Centre in Cape Breton to make the announcement! 

A federal election was called shortly after, and Stephen Harper’s Conservative government won. Their first mandate was to cancel the child care plan. I definitely worry about that happening again.

Unifor: What one change would make your job better right now?

a women standing smiling at the camera

Lisa: An end to the ECE shortage. 

Unifor: What would you say to Premier Tim Houston and Minister of Education and Early Learning Becky Druhan about the state of child care in Nova Scotia?

Lisa: I have questions for them.

Where are all the spaces you promised parents?

Where are the expansions to existing centres? Our expansion was supposed to open last December, but construction hasn’t even started yet.

Why are you waiting so long to announce the Benefit Package for ECEs? We cannot recruit and retain qualified and quality ECEs on promises.

THE TIME IS NOW. We need answers, and we need benefits that will see workers staying in the sector for the long haul.  

Unifor: What do you like best about being an ECE?

The bond formed with the children in our care. Some have been with us from 18 months until the age of 12. Every June during Grad Week we have visits from groups of former “children of Town Daycare” in their Grad Gowns coming for photos.

It makes us feel so blessed that we made a small contribution to their accomplishment.