Lois Ann Dort
Newsflash — childcare spaces a mirage in rural N.S.
Chronicle Herald Oct 31, 2017
Just in time for Halloween, the government issued a press release notifying the public about the launch of consultations on childcare needs on October 31. There was a survey link at the end of the release to which I promptly navigated. But as I made my way through the online survey, I saw that this was a trick, because although the consultation is meant to cover the entire province, it had no relevance for rural parents like myself.
Not once in the survey, in which they focused on regulated versus unregulated childcare, did they address the fact that in many, perhaps most, rural areas of this province there is no childcare at all.
The survey asked respondents to give their preferences for a variety of childcare options, but we have no options; there is nothing to choose from.
As a reporter, I often encounter politicians and when I do, I raise the issue of childcare. As a single, working mom of two small children, I have constantly relied on babysitters, sometimes dependable and sometimes not. When they fail to show up, I have to turn to neighbours and family members; and they aren’t always able to pick up the slack.
Luckily, because of the type of work I do, my kids often accompany me, not out of choice but out of necessity, to events and interviews. Due to this fact they’ve met most of our elected representatives’ numerous times—at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
Yet these politicians, who are supposed to be acting for the people, hearing me ask for childcare spaces in my area, have, on one occasion, said to me, “Well there’s a job for you.” As if I didn’t already have a job and as if childcare was something anyone could do. Such comments show disrespect for the profession of childcare and early childhood development as well as to me and the profession that I am practicing with a microphone and notepad directly in front of them.
Last spring the federal and provincial government announced an investment of $3 million into my community for a recreation complex and said during the official announcement that this development would draw new families to the area.
In interviews with representatives from the province and Ottawa after the announcement, I pointed out that new families would be hard pressed to settle here as there were no childcare spaces in the area and that those of us that do live in the community with small children generally rely on our parents to help us make it through the childcare crunch of the early years.
Their response was along the line that the recreation facility was what the community wanted and when people asked for childcare it would make its way onto the government agenda.
And they are correct. People in my community lobbied hard and fundraised for the recreation complex. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need childcare too.
I don’t know why we haven’t pushed for this essential service, why we parents aren’t persistent enough in voicing our need for childcare spaces in rural Nova Scotia. Perhaps it’s because, like many things that require political action, we feel we won’t be listened to because we just aren’t a big enough voting block to be heard.
Or it could just be that we are so fatigued by making arrangements day to day for childcare; jumping from one care crisis to another, that we don’t have time to face another battle. Whatever the case may be, the province’s consultation on childcare does not appear to include us.
Rural Nova Scotia is being hollowed out and looks, demographically, like a senior’s retirement community. In not addressing the absence of childcare in our rural communities, the government, in its consultation processes, is ensuring this trend will continue. Rural families need to work. When we work, we need childcare, regulated or unregulated. We aren’t picky because when you have nothing, anything that isn’t nothing is good.
I would like to see the recently released survey amended to include the following question: How far away is your nearest childcare centre? The answers would be enlightening and finally include rural Nova Scotians in the conversation.