02/12/2013 10:59 EST | Updated 04/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Private daycares strike over fight for subsidized spaces

Workers at 300 private and non-subsidized daycares in Quebec are on a one-day strike today to protest the way the government is allocating 28,000 new daycare spaces.

The Coalition for Private Non-subsidized Daycares says it has 10,000 empty spots currently available and is asking the government to convert those spaces into subsidized spots instead of spending millions to construct new ones in publicly-run daycares.

"We're all in agreement that there is a lack of $7-a-day daycare," said Jennifer Park, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Private Non-subsidized Daycares.

But Park said money would be better spent on existing daycares.

"Converting the private daycares that are in existence now would save the economy $260 million," she said in an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Tuesday.

She said she has been negotiating with the provincial government for over a year to try to find a a solution.

Parti Québécois responding to 'needs' of Quebec parents

The PQ announced in February it would go ahead with plans to add 15,000 new spaces plus another 13,000 allocated but not created by the former Charest government – bringing the provincial total to 250,000 daycare spaces by 2016.

A spokesman for Quebec's family minister, Bruno-Pierre Cyr, said despite concerns, the majority of parents want the government to invest in public daycare spaces rather than ones in private centres.

"We are responding to the needs and expectations of Quebec parents," Cyr said in a statement.

"The dialogue remains open," Cyr said. The minister has booked a meeting with representatives for the province's private daycares on Feb. 22.

Parents struggle to pay

Odette Desmarais, president of the Parents Committee at Park Place Daycare in Dorval, said she supports the strike.

She currently pays $36 a day for a spot at the daycare. Desmarais said the daycare even reduced its daily fee from $40 to help parents who were struggling to manage the cost.

"It's a financial burden," Desmarais said.

She said she put her name on all the waiting lists for $7-a-day daycare before opting for a private one. Two years later, Desmarais said she's still waiting.

Desmarais said she wants her child to stay in an environment she loves.

Jessica Chambers, a CÉGEP teacher at Dawson College, pays $90 a day to put her two children in daycare. She was forced to stay at home today because of the strike.

"I do support the strike itself," she said, adding that she can't afford the cost of daycare much longer.

But she said the protest comes at a cost.

"Not only has it inconvenienced myself and my family for the day, but 120 of my students," she said.

Daycares must respond to needs of community

President of the Quebec Private Daycares Association, Sylvain Lévesque, says he disagrees with the actions of the daycares that are striking.

Rather than demanding subsidies from the government after they've opened, Lévesque said private daycares need to work with the government and respond to the needs of the community.

"There are rules and regulations you need to respect if you want to get subsidies." Lévesque said. For instance, he said private daycares need to provide spaces for children with disabilities and in low-income areas.

The protest is scheduled for noon on Tuesday outside the National Assembly in Quebec City and outside the premier's office in downtown Montreal.