Minister Finley announces creation of Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Child Care Spaces Initiative


Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, announced the creation of a ministerial advisory committee that will advise her on the design of the Child Care Spaces Initiative.


Editorial: Harper’s dubious child-care panel
Sep. 8, 2006
Toronto Star

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has strong ideas on child care. He does not see the need for a national child-care plan that meets the needs of all families. And an advisory committee the government has just appointed to provide advice is not likely to contradict him.

Most of the members of the nine-person committee named this week by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley already are on record as supporting the Conservative proposal….

The new committee is chaired by Gordon Chong, a former Toronto city councillor and ex-chairman of GO Transit, who has said publicly that he supports Harper’s approach because it provides “choices” for families.

Other members include a private child-care operator; the president of a support group for stay-at-home mothers that rallied against the Liberal daycare strategy; the head of a right-wing think-tank; and, oddly, the head of a company that develops computer programming for prison systems.

Just two committee members represent the non-profit sector.

And while community organizations and municipal governments operate fully 70 per cent of all child-care spaces across Canada, none is represented on the advisory panel.

The Tories promise “choice.” But the fact is that most working families do not have much choice at all. At present, regulated child care meets the needs of only one in six children under the age of 12. That is why the Liberals recognized the urgent need to provide more spaces, before they were turned out of office earlier this year.

Harper and the Conservatives hope to create 125,000 child-care spaces over the next five years by providing tax credits to employers — an approach tried in Ontario in the mid-1990s that proved a failure — as well as capital grants and loans to care providers. They have no intention of providing ongoing operating support to the provinces to ensure that the spaces are sustainable.

This is a poor substitute for the $5 billion deal reached by the Liberals and signed by each of the provinces….

In theory, the new child-care committee’s mandate is “to provide advice on the child-care needs of Canadian families and the role and interests of employers.” At best, that is a mixed message to a skewed panel. Child care should be about children and ensuring that all of them get the best quality care. Employers can be counted on to look out for their own interests.

The committee’s makeup confirms that the Harper government is not interested in working with the provinces to create new, regulated, sustainable child-care spaces. If it were, the committee would be more balanced, with more input from municipal and community actors, the not-for-profit sector and working families.


Advocates fear Tory committee too biased
Sep. 7, 2006


OTTAWA—Daycare advocates slammed the federal Conservatives yesterday, saying a new ministerial advisory committee on child care is unnecessary and biased against non-profit daycare.

MP Olivia Chow (NDP—Trinity-Spadina) said the nine-member committee appointed this week by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is “packed” with private-sector appointments while provinces, and not-for-profit experts in child-care delivery are marginalized.

“The advisory committee is unbalanced, unaccountable and shows the minister’s extraordinary unwillingness to work with the provinces and experts to create real sustainable child-care spaces,” said Chow.

Finley has asked the committee to report this fall on how to design an initiative that would meet the Conservative promise to create 125,000 new child-care spaces over five years.

Chow said five committee members are on record or work with organizations “which are on record supporting the Conservative child-care scheme as opposed to public, not-for-profit child-care spaces.”

She questioned the appointment of the head of Syscon Justice Systems Ltd., Floyd Sully, saying he “has expertise in developing computer programming for prison systems; perhaps Mr. Harper has a prison model in mind when it comes to child-care spaces for Canadian children.”

Only one committee member is associated with the delivery of public child care, she said. Others suggested two members could be considered friends of non-profit child care: Don Giesbrecht, president of the Canadian Child Care Federation, and Georgina Steinsky-Schwartz, head of Imagine Canada, which promotes social entrepreneurship.

Morna Ballantyne, co-ordinator of Code Blue (a coalition of 30 organizations lobbying for a national daycare program and operational funding along the lines promised by the federal Liberals) echoed Chow’s concerns.

The Liberal daycare program is to be scrapped next February by the Conservatives and replaced with an as-yet undefined program of corporate tax credits — which were tried and failed in Ontario in the mid ’90s — or capital grants and loans to create spaces. The Tories have sworn not to provide ongoing operating funds to the provinces….

The chair of the new committee is Gordon Chong, who ran for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party in 1987. A former city councillor and head of GO Transit, Chong now heads Toronto’s social housing services corporation.

Chong defended his views as not biased in favour of any result, adding he believes strongly in mixing private- and public-sector delivery of services “whether it’s housing or child care.”

He said it is “unfortunate” that Chow and other critics have “prejudged what conclusions we’re going to come to because I certainly haven’t done that.”

Colleen Cameron, the minister’s press secretary, yesterday dismissed the critics’ concerns. The committee members were selected for their “expertise and experience in child care, work-family issues, community organizations and the needs of employers,” she said, not their adherence to the Conservative party’s line.

Don Giesbrecht of the Canadian Child Care Federation, who was also named to the committee, said he’s “keeping an open mind” about the work.


More talk, still no action, says CUPE on new federal child care committee
September 6, 2006

Media release

Yesterday’s announcement by the federal government of the creation of an advisory committee on child care “has been done before, and will probably generate the same recommendations that we have seen for the past twenty years or more,” said CUPE’s National President Paul Moist today….