Report on PM Visit to BC

WATCH THE NEWS TODAY—APRIL 18 TUES 2006

The PM came to Burnaby today to highlight the government’s child care policy. Their info to media did not state that CHILD CARE would be the focus.

The PMO asked me about finding a location for this about 3-4 weeks ago, they hoped to find a “friendly daycare”. I told them there was no such thing, and suggested a parent-run parent-child drop-in at a community centre not far from where I live (I went there when my son was little and took dancing classes there when I was 5).

NOTE: JUST HEARD: BC CBC RADIO NEWS IS CALLING IT A DAYCARE CENTRE WHICH IT CERTAINLY IS NOT AND DOES NOT EVEN LOOK LIKE.

The parents at the drop-in were favourable, so it happened.

The drop-in had mainly mums and children 0-4—about 45 altogether, and also dads, grandmas, mix of cultures and income levels and arrangements and politics (this is a very strong NDP area—was Svend Robinson’s riding). The drop-in has been going on for over 20 yrs with no government involvement or paid staff.

The media were there in full force. I did a number of interviews. The PM mentioned Kids First Parent Association several times in his 6-7 minute speech, so our profile is rising.

His speech also hit hard on the daycare lobbyists being funded by Liberals. He said that parents don’t have tax-funded lobby groups and cannot get to Ottawa to advocate. These are specific things I have been telling (suggesting to!) them to emphasize, so they are listening to us and using our ideas.

Part of the event was a private (no media) informal 35 minute “round table” with some (pre-selected, I suppose, Conservative Party member) parents and the PM with me as the main presenter.

The PM said

  • they are looking at combining the CTB, NCB, CCED and the new $1200 allowance.

  • they are “open” to in future directing more $ directly to parents and away from funding “spaces”.

  • they are working with provinces to prevent “claw back” of the $1,200. The NDP and Bloc are supportive on that issue.

  • they will not fund operating costs which is a Provincial area—the $10,000 tax credit is for CAPITAL-i.e. building costs for new spaces only.

  • the $1,200 was never said to cover all parents’ costs of children but recognizes that all have costs including those who do not use daycare

Kids First position is “NO preferential funding for any care form,” so they have a long way to go. CHOICE-yes—BUT choice WITH EQUITY IN FUNDING is the real sticky issue.

I stressed the need for government to get the FACTS out to other MPs/public with so much dis-information being sincerely believed (e.g. 70% mums ‘working’, waitlists, quality).

Some of the parents complained of difficulty finding daycare while they “work,” so

  • I stressed that care-work IS work and …

    • forgone income can cost far more than daycare fees

    • that high income daycare users are receiving more $ from government than welfare parents

  • I suggested that parents have been encouraged to have an attitude of entitlement if they want daycare, and that non-daycare users have struggles too

  • I suggested a “pro-active” approach to building care-networks, which drop-ins like this one help with.

There was a general sense that the PRINCIPLE of RECOGNITION of parental care and parental control is very significant.

The PM was clear that it makes no sense to pay one person for care work and refuse to pay parents. I also raised the issue of QUALITY of care in daycare—poor according to the daycare lobby’s reports—with current ratios—which he appeared to note. And that the “best interests of the child” be at the core of the policy. I asked them (again) to seek input from developmental scientists (e.g. Dr Gordon Neufeld).

I spent considerable time updating and then abridging the “FACT AND FICTION, IDEOLOGIES AND AGENDAS” report, printing, getting our website info on stickers and putting that on our “every mother is a working mother buttons” (had help but this is time consuming), check top of web home page: http://www.kidsfirstcanada.org/

I see that the CHANGE IN OPTICS—i.e. going to a parent-run drop-in rather than a daycare—is VERY SIGNIFICANT. Parents who don’t use daycare are no longer MARGINALIZED AND POLICTICALLY INVISIBLE. This will make a concrete difference—for many mums especially who struggle with fathers, friends, in-laws etc. about “getting a real job and putting kids in daycare”.

Thanks for all your work on this which IS making a difference, bit by bit.

Helen Ward