Public Values

Foreign investment imperils child care

Press conference cites Aussie experience, NAFTA rules.

Noted trade lawyer Steven Shrybman.by CUPE

CUPE has released a legal opinion suggesting that if the federal and provincial governments don't act fast, a company called "123 Busy Beavers" might make universal child care an impossibility.

The opinion, by noted trade lawyer Steven Shrybman, examines NAFTA rules around public services and foreign investment. Paul Moist, Shrybman, National Child Care Advisory Committee Chair, Shellie Bird, and Tracy Freitas, Early Childhood Educator and CUPE 2204 member, released the opinion at a press conference April 01.

Canada has for-profit child care, but it's mostly delivered by small businesses and individuals. There is little – if any – foreign investment.

That could change though, as a company with ties to Australian child care ABC Learning Centres has been buying up for-profit child care centres in Alberta, BC and Ontario.

And if the amount of for-profit child care delivery grows, and if the amount of foreign investment grows too, Shrybman argues, child care would be considered a commercial venture, rather than a "reserved" public service, under NAFTA.

Any new program — such as the national child care program envisioned in Bill C-303 or even the Ontario government's plan for full-day kindergarden — could be considered a violation of the rights of the for-profit child care sectors' investors...

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada's largest union.

Links and sources
  Foreign investment imperils child care, CUPE website, April 01, 2008
  Australian cautionary tale: CUPE speaker's tour
  Foreign Investment in the Child Care Sector: Canada's International Trade Obligations (Legal opinion by Steven Shrybman) - .pdf format

Posted: April 09, 2008

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