The night Prime Minister Stephen Harper was sworn in (2006), he gave notice that he would be cancelling the bilateral child care agreements. Advocates immediately redirected their focus and swung into mobilizing mode, organizing rallies and demonstrations in each province. Child care advocates also strengthened ties with longstanding partners and broadened our reach, and found a tremendous groundswell or grassroots support across the country to save the agreements.
This popular tide led to the Code Blue for Child Care campaign, established in February 2006 to work until the next federal election to protect the progress advocates had made on child care. The campaign brought together Canadians from all walks of life; national, provincial/territorial child care organizations; and labour, women’s and social justice groups.
While the CCAAC and the Council of Advocates was critical to providing a home and a structure for Code Blue, an unprecedented number of organizations and individuals across the country joined the campaign. Code Blue received financial or organizational support from several unions, social justice coalitions and provincial child care organizations. Municipalities, community counties, school boards and large employers passed resolutions supporting a child care program. Provincial and territorial child care coalitions took the lead mobilizing in their regions through petitions, rallies, town hall meetings, and media events.
Just six weeks after its launch, Code Blue’s open letter to Prime Minister Harper had already reached over 25,000 signatures, growing to 55,000 shortly thereafter. Code Blue for Child Care’s open letter and petitions brought over 100,000 signatures from Canadians giving their support in urging the Prime Minister and Premiers to honour the federal provincial child care agreements. A 25 metre petition was rolled out in St. John’s outside the hotel where the Premiers were meeting to discuss the fiscal imbalance.
Perhaps the most recognizable action of the year was Code Blue’s witty Report Card from February 2008 which called for Harper to “improve his active listening skills” and said that he “shouldn’t be allowed to play with scissors after the drastic cuts he made to child care.”
Code Blue for Child Care was later re-established as a new website (no longer active) to keep advocates and families informed and updated during the 2011 federal election.