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EDITORIAL: Pot pay gap

P.E.I. Finance Minister Heath MacDonald addresses a crowd of Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce members at Tuesday’s budget breakfast event. MILLICENT MCKAY/JOURNAL PIONEER
Finance Minister Heath MacDonald. - SaltWire Network

It was said to be comparing apples to oranges, but a debate this week in the legislature over a wage disparity brought to light an important question about just how much early childhood educators (ECE) are valued in this province.

PC MLA Brad Trivers questioned the governing Liberals this week over the pay gap between clerks at the Island’s four cannabis stores and educators in Early Years Centres (EYC).

Ads for pot store employees advertise hourly wages ranging from $18.70 to $20.35 for clerks, $22.44 to $25.49 for senior clerks and $25.91 to $36.23 for managers.

Early childhood educators in EYCs make between $15.30 and $17.22 an hour, while directors were paid around $21.42.

In response, Finance Minister Heath MacDonald rightly pointed out that equating the two fields of work isn’t fair. The jobs are completely different in nature and require vastly different skill sets and levels of education.

On the other hand, that’s exactly the point.

Early childhood educators take months of post-secondary training to receive the certification required for their jobs, while the minimum educational requirement for cannabis store clerks is the completion of high school.

Apples to oranges or not, give credit where credit is due to the Opposition for bringing ECE wages to the forefront of the discussion.

Government doesn’t regulate early childhood educator wages, though the province says it is partnering with the Early Childhood Development Association on a workforce strategy to address wages, along with working conditions, education requirements, recruitment and retention.

ECEs have only seen a raise once in the past eight years. The fact that they made just a shade more than the provincial minimum wage last year is shameful considering the responsibility with which they’re tasked.

We want today’s children to become tomorrow’s leaders, and their experience in Early Years Centres could very well be the building blocks of their educational success.

If early childhood educators don’t feel valued, there won’t be many left for the next generation of kids. Wages aren't the only component to that sense of value, but pay scale is a major consideration for most people trying to determine their career path.

Let’s hope a strategy from the government and Early Childhood Development Association can deliver some much-needed change, and soon.

Early childhood educators work at the foundation of our educational system, but that shouldn’t mean their wages are at the ground level.

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