Mustard Calls Quebec Study “chicken shit”, McCain Accuses Authors of Denying Breastfeeding Benefits

Should Daycare Lobby Heavyweights Wear Pink and Stop Bullying?

Daycare Gurus Mustard, McCain, and Hertzman Slam Pro-Breastfeeding Economists

The study that showed negative outcomes for Quebec daycare has been called “chicken shit” by Dr. Fraser Mustard, former Chair of Ballard Power and consultant to the World Bank on early childhood, in a February 14, 2008 Senate hearing on early child development [1].

The study found that children are more aggressive and sick more often since the beginning of the $5/day Quebec daycare system[2]. The findings reflect the Quebec government finding that the 73 percent of daycare there is of minimal or worse quality [3]. The study also reflects similar findings from the US [4] and elsewhere regarding negative health and behavioural outcomes for children in daycare centres.

“They also said that they could find no physical, nutritional benefits to breastfeeding. They know nothing about attachment theory. These are a group of economists,” said Margaret McCain, Mustard colleague and wife of frozen-French-fry billionaire, Wallace McCain, at the same hearing.

Mustard went on to praise the work of economist James Heckman of the right-wing Chicago School as an economist who visited laboratory monkeys and “understand[s] developmental neurobiology.”

However, studies and presentations by the economists in question, Drs. Kevin Milligan of the University of British Columbia and Michael Baker of the University of Toronto [5]—both fathers of young children—are highly supportive of breastfeeding and have raised the ire of daycare lobbyists who fail to mention breastfeeding at all.

Mustard’s dismissal of the Quebec study is similar to the comments of his protégé and fellow World Bank daycare promoter, Clyde Hertzman of UBC, who called the economists “zombies” conducting “statistical malpractice” at a 2006 book launch in Vancouver.

Excerpts from the draft transcript of the Senate hearing

Senator Trenholme Counsell: The only thing that has come up in these hearings that has concerned me, and we have not had anyone discuss this since it happened, was testimony by Professor Milligan, I believe from the University of Toronto, in which he referred to a study in Quebec where they observed deterioration in certain measures relating to aggression, anxiety and other aspects of development – even children’s’ health. … That study worried me very much. It is in here without any real commentary or reaction to that study. I had better stop there. I would like you to … have your reaction to this report by Professor Milligan.

Mustard: Coming back to the story that you have from Quebec, crappy daycare is damaging to children. The research is probably chicken shit, pardon my language. I am blunt. I am sick and tired of academics that cannot get it right because they do not understand developmental neurobiology. That is how they get screwed up. Pardon me.

McCain: Regarding the University of Toronto study, I am very familiar with it. I heard Dr. Baker who is part of the same team. I followed him in making a presentation. They also said that they could find no physical, nutritional benefits to breastfeeding. They know nothing about attachment theory. These are a group of economists. The research has been strongly refuted by reputable psychologists, developmental scientists, and other economists as well. We do not put a lot of weight on that.

Dr. Mustard: Heckman is a Nobel laureate for doing brilliant work. He understands his subject better than 99.9 per cent of economists. He has been able to link the neurobiology to studies, and he went to visit the Rhesus Macaque primary colony in Washington to study the biology seen there in terms of humans. Only trust economists who have a good biological science background

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[1] Feb 14, 2008. Senate of Canada – hearings (PDF): The draft transcript of the Senate hearing says “chicken shit” while the official transcript says “chicken poop.”

[2] “Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply and Family Well-Being” (broken link) by Michael Baker (University of Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT) and Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia).

[3] “Quality Counts! Assessing the Quality of Daycare Services Based on the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development” (broken link), Reality Check on Quebec Daycare: Research Finds Low Quality, High Costs, Negative Outcomes, Worse Family Finances (Kids First article)

[4] NICHD report (PDF)

[5] Statistics Canada The Daily, Tuesday, June 19, 2007 “Study: Maternal employment, breastfeeding and health” (cat link)

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