06/04/2013 10:21 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Private daycares ask parents to keep kids at home

A group representing 325 private but government-subsidized daycare operators is asking parents not to bring their children to their daycare centres today so the owners can attend a rally in front of the national assembly in Quebec City.

The Quebec Association of Private Daycares, known by its French acronym AGPQ, said Tuesday its daycare centres will remain open but parents are being encouraged to keep their children at home.

Meanwhile, Quebec's family services minister, Nicole Léger, has signed a tentative deal with another group of private daycare operators, le Rassemblement des garderies privées du Québec (RGPQ), to proceed with cutbacks which the minister insists must go ahead.

The RGPQ, which represents 150 private but subsidized daycares, will put that proposed agreement to a vote by its members on Friday.

The private daycare owners are fighting Léger's plan to slash $14.9 million from their budgets next month.

Government accused of bullying

Last month, dozens of private but provincially subsidized daycares held a one-day strike and are facing fines as a result. Now they say Quebec is threatening to pull their operating licences.

Mona Lisa Farinacci-Borrega, a private daycare operator in Montreal's Anjou borough, said some operators have received a letter from the family services ministry, stating that the government reserves the right to suspend or cancel their subsidies or permits if they withhold service from parents.

"For some people, it's been a provocation," said Farinacci-Borrega. "Most people are very scared of this letter. They don't want to chance it. They have mortgages to pay."

Still, Farinacci-Borrega says her group will fight the planned budget cuts. She said many businesses stand to lose more than half of the income they draw on to pay staff and maintain their buildings

Léger insists she does not intend to take away anyone's operating permit, but she said the owners do have to make the cuts, which she says are not any bigger than the cuts imposed on public daycares.