Monday August 30, 2021 | SAANICH, BC [Updated September 1, 2021]
by Jalen Codrington | Island Social Trends | with Mary P Brooke, Editor
As part of her re-election campaign, Green Party incumbent Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands) has been out and about meeting with constituents in the community. On Friday August 27, May visited at Ocean Rain Arts and Education, an early childhood education center in Saanich.
The Greens feel that every parent struggles not only to find childcare centers, but to find one that provides quality care.
May and staff chatted with Ocean Lu, owner of the business. Aspects of their discussion included the spaciousness of the centre, the cultural diversity of its students, and the differences in Chinese and Canadian childhood education.
“I appreciate the Canadian way of letting kids be kids,” said Lu. “But I also appreciate the Chinese way of believing in children’s potential.” A big focus of learning at Ocean Rain Arts and Education is learning through the arts.
Lu purchased the building in 2016, and after a year of renovations, was finally ready to open. Located near Shelbourne and McKenzie, it has a staff of about 12.
Finding qualified ECE’s:
Lu recounted to Island Social Trends her struggles with finding certified early childhood education (ECE) workers to staff her childcare centre.
“Staffing is always an issue,” Lu said. “There are plenty of qualified foreign ECE workers, but struggling with their work or visa applications, struggling to get their credentials recognized in Canada,” she added.
Lu eventually found suitable staff; due to delays at Immigration Canada they had been having difficulties getting their credentials recognized in Canada.
“I didn’t know who to turn to, until somebody said, ‘Why don’t you contact Elizabeth May?’”
The next day, May’s office contacted Immigration Canada to get to sort out the difficulties in the delay. Lu said as well that May’s office helped her staffing to find housing in the community.
“To me, she’s a doer, she’s not just a talker.”
The Greens on childcare:
May sat down with Island Social Trends to chat about the federal Green’s childcare vision.
“Education should not be a babysitting service; or worse: parking them in front of a television,” said May. “Keeping them so they don’t die at the end of the day is good, but it’s not quality childcare.”
She said the Green Party has always advocated for universal, accessible, early childhood education.
May is also an advocate for workplace childcare, where it can be beneficial to have a child attend work with the parent. “It decreases absenteeism, [and] creates a lot more comfort for parents that they’re not away from their kids,” she said.
With the pandemic, said May, many workplaces saw an alarming retreat of women in the workplace – what’s been coined a she-cession. A March 2021 report found that low-income working women were among those hit the hardest by COVID lockdowns. Most of the shortfall is attributable to losses in hard-hit sectors such as food industry and accommodations, according to the report.
“If there isn’t accessible, affordable, excellent childcare, universally, the workforce is going to be skewed and we’re going to have a lot fewer women coming back to work, which is a real hit to the economy,” said May.
A national childcare plan:
Canada came close to a national childcare plan back in 2005, when the then-Liberal Social Development Minister (and goaltender for the Montreal Canadians) Ken Dryden struck childcare deals with all 10 provinces. But after Harper was elected in 2006, the Conservative government gutted the bilateral agreements.
May said that there is great willingness among all federal parties (barring the Conservatives) for a national childcare system.
“Overwhelmingly, I’d say the Liberals, the Greens, and the NDP agree that we need to bring in universal childcare,” said May, who has been officially recognized by the House of Commons as a parliamentary leader.
“We need to have every Canadian family and every Canadian child have a good start in life, with not just warehousing children for someone else to look after while you go to work; you want that to be an enhanced childhood learning opportunity,” says May.
Beyond the riding:
May is the former, and ninth, Green Party leader (2006-2019). She has the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding since 2011.
The riding’s voter base includes populations of the Town of Sidney, Districts of North Saanich and Central Saanich, part of the District of Saanich, Indian Reserves of Cole Bay 3, East Saanich 2, South Saanich 1 and Union Bay 4.
May built the power of the party largely in BC before branching out to Atlantic Canada in the 2019 campaign.
This past weekend May campaigned on the mainland with West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast Sea to Sky Country Green candidate Mike Simpson.
Today she did a one-hour live call on C-FAX radio. She also campaigned with Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon candidate Nichole Bellay, attending a friendship centre, greeting people outside the post office in Mission, sharing a ‘bring a cup’ in a local park, and attending a BBQ supper.
All this as she recovers from knee surgery, using a walker as required, and during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
This is now Week 3 of the five-week (36-day) 44th federal election campaign. Advance voting is set for September 10 through 13. The mail-in ballot request date is September 14. The general election day is September 20 (polls open 9 am to 9 pm).
At dissolution of the 43rd parliament there were two Green MP’s in the House of Commons, both from Vancouver Island — Elizabeth May and also Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith).