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Monday, October 25, 2004

Spin the baby

Oh dear, oh dear. Canada's child care policies are failing, so says a report from the "Paris-based" "international" Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which seems to have slipped out the news of its findings simultaneously to Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen all at once. From The Globe:

"Canada's child-care system is a fragmented, money-wasting patchwork of programs that provides babysitting for working parents but disregards a growing body of global research that shows educating preschool minds provides lifelong dividends, says a new OECD report.

At a time when other industrialized countries are pouring money into early-education systems for children younger than formal school age, Canada is languishing in terms of quality and investment in education and care for children, the OECD says.

The report, to be released today by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, says the only province not faltering is Quebec."

Quebec, where of course they have a fully government-funded system. What a coincidence! Well, we can see where this is heading.
"And while Canada suffers a steep shortage of regulated child-care spaces -- enough for less than 20 per cent of children under 6 with working parents -- growing numbers of countries are putting in place publicly funded systems of early learning for all children. In the United Kingdom, 60 per cent of young children are in regulated care; in Denmark, 78 per cent."

(Oh yeah? What about Belgium?)
"The report calls on the federal and provincial governments to draft a coherent vision for a publicly funded, universal system of early-childhood learning and care, based on the latest social science, with hard and fast steps, benchmarks, time frames and budgets for putting into place a program in every province that would be the cornerstone of Canadian family policy."

Ack! We are failing our children! And the international community knows about it! Oh woe is me! says Average Joe Citizen.

Of course, what Average Joe does readily realize because it is not stated in these uncritical one-sided, pseudo-news stories, is how this report is produced and why. Who is the OECD? From their homepage:

The OECD groups 30 member countries sharing a commitment to democratic government and the market economy.

30 member countries. But for some reason they only studied 20 countries for this report. Market economy? Why are they telling us to spend more public money on government child care? Let us look at the OECD website [scroll down to "Who Does What"]:

"The secretariat in Paris carries out research and analysis at the request of the OECD’s 30 member countries."

In other words, the Canadian government--our Liberal Party leaders--helped fund this. How miraculous that the OECD would produce this study just when we are discussing one of Paul Martin's campaign promises, national daycare.

Who runs the secretariat in Paris? Why, none other than Donald J. Johnston, OECD Secretary-General. Who is he? Why, he is a former Canadian Liberal cabinet minister, a Trudeau Liberal as a matter of fact, being first elected in to Parliament in 1978, elected president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1990, moving to Paris to assume his post in 1996. Here's his bio on the OECD site. I like that bit about the free trade thing [my italics], "His decision to leave politics was partly due to disagreement with his Party on his support for the Free Trade Agreement..." Partly? What was the other part?

To finish up The Globe story:

The report's recommendations to Canada include:
Increase funding to OECD levels (Canada now spends 0.2 per cent of GDP), with Ottawa and the provinces each paying 40 per cent of the cost and parents the remaining 20 per cent;
Integrate child care and kindergarten;
Improve the training and recruitment of workers.

So what we have here is a load of BS. National standards, Ottawa and provinces equal funding. Where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, health care, brought in by a Liberal government with the federal government supposed to pay 50% of the cost. Of course, the federal government will whittle back its share of funding, leaving the provinces holding the bag while retaining for themselves all the political glory as defenders of the system, until of course it fails.

"International study..." Piffle. I say this is just deliberately timed, Liberal Party propaganda.

Posted by Kevin Steel on October 25, 2004 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Tracked on 2004-10-26 8:33:21 AM


National daycare would become the next sacred cow if implemented. Liberals would tell us that to question the public monopoly on daycare is un-Canadian. Leadership hopefuls would die a quick political death at the slightest mention of allowing even a smidgeon of private-sector reform to the $40-billion a year mammoth social engineering project.

Meanwhile, citizens are demanding shorter wait times and additional daycare facilities, unaware that a special "Early Child Development Tax" may have to be added to their total tax burden of 70%. Prime Minister Sheila Copps screeches to campaign reporters her pledge to "fix daycare for a generation".

Welcome to Canada. / Bienvue au Canada.

Posted by: Joel | 2004-10-25 8:51:34 AM

I'm not sure the point of your post. Is there any evidence that they are incorrect when they say that "educating preschool minds provides lifelong dividends"? I think the evidence is very clear that it DOES. Are you really against educational programs?

By the way, the Liberal Platform does not call for a National "Daycare" program, it calls for a National Early Learning and Child Care Program.

The distinction is important and is exactly what you missed. Daycare (i.e., babysitting) IS often supplemented, but the more useful educational programs are not.


Posted by: k | 2004-10-25 9:44:35 AM

k: I don't think I missed the point at all. If early learning helps your kids, do it, and pay for it. The report is calling for a national child care program, national standards. Am I against educational programs? Well, you might as well have asked me whether I opposed "saving lives" by not supporting universal health care. I am against federally regulated educational programs, yes. Education is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces according to our constitution. "National Early Learning and Child Care Program" bah! Dressing up the Big Babysitting Service with a pretty name.

Posted by: Kevin Steel | 2004-10-25 10:12:19 AM

Or, I dunno k, maybe people should just take care of their own kids -- preferably at home -- without expecting me to pay for it! Crazy, I know...

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-10-25 12:29:34 PM


All but the most extreme libertarian (the kind that doesn't really exist) believes that the government should have no role in our lives. Where to draw the line is, of course, the relevant question. For some, the Government should be limited to "border" issues such as defense and immigration, and stay out of the way on everything else. For others, Government should have some role in business regulation, healthcare, education, etc.

I would argue that the expense of educating children is one that should be born by society as a whole, rather than just parents. Overall, the benefits - both socially and economically - of a strong education system outweigh the costs.

Posted by: k | 2004-10-25 1:20:48 PM

I thought we were talking about daycare, not education vis K-12. I don't believe in gov't (that is, taxpayer) sponsored daycare because small children should be raised at home by a full time parent or cared for by a relative if both parents work. None of that requires my tax money.

speaking of which, before you point out that "both parents need to work"--fewer would have to if we just, you know, got rid of all these crapy programs and cut everyone's taxes in the first place.

"A strong educational system" is fine in theory, but have you actually encountered other human beings lately? Our's may be something, but strong it ain't. Home schooling is the way to go and a decent private school would be second.

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-10-25 2:00:57 PM

If you think a federal early childhood education and care program is a "winner", imagine if our K-12 system were federalized. (Look south if you need an example.)

What we need are policies which motivate one parent to stay home.

Posted by: lrC | 2004-10-25 2:41:56 PM

Again, this reinforces my point that daycare and early education should not be conflated. The proposal is NOT for daycare (i.e., babysitting).

Kevin seems to think that "Early Education" is simply a fancy word for daycare, but if you look at the details of the program, the two are decidedly different.

Posted by: k | 2004-10-25 3:20:00 PM

The distinction between daycare and early years learning may be there but it is of no consequence. Neither should be the government's role, especially not the federal government's. Kathy's right about home schooling and private schools - they are the best options. All policies on education need to be geared towards giving parents the freedom (through less taxes, the ability to opt out of the public school system with a full refund, etc.) to choose the best daycare, child care or any other eduational program for their children. I don't question the study's conclusion that early childhood learning is crucial; I question the role of government in such affairs.

Posted by: Michael Dabioch | 2004-10-25 5:40:04 PM

Teaching children ABCs, tying shoelaces, and singing Frere Jacques a year before they would learn them anyways, has "lifelong dividends" ???

Too funny.

Every day I see the little kids in daycare (sorry - Lifelong Enrichment) sitting in the Lifelong Enrichment Centre playground until 6pm, shivering their asses off, waiting for their parents to come back from their tax-slave job and pick them up and drive them home.

Yep, Canada is becoming a caring, sharing paradise so quickly, most people don't even know it.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-10-25 10:04:08 PM

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