Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rodney Weston and the Conservatives are Wrong About Childcare

Last May a conference was held at Mount Allison University in Sackville, hosted by the Council for Early Child Development. One of the speakers invited to attend was former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

He reminded Canadians that the Conservatives had cancelled the childcare program that Ken Dryden had spent several years developing, replacing it with the ridiculous $100.00 Universal Tax Credit.

Rodney Weston came out swinging in the local paper:

"I chuckle when I hear the former prime minister talk about us breaking a promise. It wasn't the Conservative government's promise. It was a promise made by the Liberal party," said the Saint John MP.

"We kept our commitment to an early childhood benefit"¦ that goes to every family in Canada."
The Conservatives currently provide a universal child care benefit of $100 per month for each child under six, and they say they have helped the provinces and territories create more than 60,000 child care spaces since March.

They may say they have but the fact is, they have not really created any new spaces. The slight blip is due to provincial incentives, mostly in Quebec.

The 2009 budget failed to provide any new funds for childcare, despite the fact that it would have been a very good way to stimulate the economy. According to the National Union of Public and General Employees:
While the 2009 Federal Budget promised to help Canada's economic recovery and stimulus budget, the Harper government once again refused to address the issue of child care spaces. And yet, research indicates that for every dollar spent on child care there is a ripple effect of $1.58 in the the local economy.

And of Weston's claim that his government has created new spaces:
Ottawa (6 Feb. 2009) – Despite promises by the Harper Conservatives that their child care annual allowance and capital grants to employers would create more than 250,000 child care spaces, the reality appears to be greatly different. Child care advocates are pointing to a growing loss of child care spaces which is making a serious problem for parents even worse.

This is a very important issue, because without a viable childcare plan, many people are unable to enter the workforce. Private day cares are too expensive and provincial plans are stretched to the limit.

Gerald Caplan wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail last October under the headline: Why do Tories hate children? It was no doubt meant to grab our attention, and it certainly did.

Mr. Caplan had been involved with trying to implement early childhood education in Ontario under the Mike Harris government.
The reality emerged in a series of phone-in shows I participated in soon after our report was released. I'm not easily shocked, but this time I was. ECE was seen by innumerable callers as some kind of plot to steal the minds of tiny children before they could think for themselves. Who were the plotters? What nefarious purpose did they have? To what end would helpless toddlers be brainwashed? There were no really good answers to these obvious questions. But in general, all ECE was seen as some kind of socialist/communist plot to forge Ontario's children into mindless little reds.

Nothing, but nothing I could argue about the benefits of ECE and the lack of ulterior motives of any kind could sway this motley collection of paranoids. (I was not surprised to learn how many were also creationists.) It appeared they were getting ammunition for their wacky fears from organized conservative groups, some of them in the back-to-basics school movement. They made it easier for Mike Harris to deep-six ECE for many years to come.

(This sounds not unlike Stephen Harper's Reformers.)
Paul Martin began the task of developing a national child care system that would include early childhood development. But his early defeat left it to Stephen Harper to scuttle Martin's entire system and to introduce instead an allowance for parents of young children that is not remotely enough to get their kids into child care that doesn't exist.

Why? What do these conservatives know that a generation of education researchers don't? I've been racking my brain over this one for almost 15 years
now and still have no sensible answer.

It's that neoconservative ideology. They believe that children will be indoctrinated into some kind of cult that will only want to improve their minds and create better educated and healthier children. Oh the horror.

Although, it actually has more to do with teaching scientific theories that might contradict the Bible. But if you want indoctrination, when Stockwell Day was teaching at the Bentley Bible schools, one of the questions on his test was 'Are the Jews the children of the devil, yes or no?' The seed is planted, associating Jews with the devil, so it doesn't matter how they answer that.

We've got to get our country back so we can start moving forward again. I'm really getting tired of this.


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