Throne Speech limits on federal spending would end child care dream

CCAAC/Code Blue media release

OTTAWA, Oct. 14 /CNW Telbec/ – Child care advocates will be closely monitoring Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne to see if Stephen Harper allies with Gilles Duceppe to limit the federal spending power. The federal spendingpower is the only available tool the Government of Canada has to launch apan-Canadian child care program.

“This constitutional provision is the mechanism that gave us Medicare,”says Morna Ballantyne of the national advocacy group Code Blue for Child Care.

“Ottawa’s ability to set conditions on the funding it makes available for social programs ensures that Canadians from coast to coast to coast enjoy the same fundamental social rights.”

Child care advocates respect the desire of Quebecers to control their own social institutions as a means of protecting their distinct culture,” says
Ballantyne. “But Quebec’s needs can be addressed without imposing on all Canadians a measure that makes sense only for Quebec.”

Bill 303, The Early Learning and Child Care Act, scheduled before Parliament this session does just that. It places conditions on provinces and territories in receipt of federal funding for child care but allows Quebec to set its own standards.

Related articles

Analysis: Scoring the Tories on the April 2006 Throne Speech
Oct. 14 2007 12:19 PM ET
By: Parminder Parmar, News

On October 16th, the horse-drawn carriage of the Governor General will once again descend upon Parliament Hill for the throne speech. Just more than 18 months after the last throne speech, Members of Parliament will again follow the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod to the Senate chambers to hear the Conservative Party’s agenda for what will likely be the remainder of its term…..

Care for kids

While the Harper government’s rhetoric on crime may play well to public opinion, the same can’t categorically be said about its child care policies.

The Harper government outraged some child care advocates when it made an abrupt policy change to a Liberal plan that would have worked with provinces to create a national day care program.

Instead, the Tories promised in their throne speech that they would give individual families a choice when it comes to providing day care services for their children. Last summer, they delivered on a campaign promise to give families $1,200-a-year payments for every child under six.

“Did (Harper) do what he said he was going to do? Yes, he cancelled the national child care plan,” says Elizabeth Ablett, the Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “Did this help? $1,200 hasn’t created a single child care space.”

Ablett welcomes the additional money to help families, but she says it’s a far cry from what’s needed, which is a national child care program.

But de Clercy says when it comes to following through on their day care priority, the Harper government can claim victory. She says the Tories, along with bureaucrats, did a good job of getting their new program up and running in an effective manner.

But she cautions, the strong criticism about the limits of the Harper day care strategy may mean that this is one issue that is almost guaranteed to be revisited in the next election campaign.

A potential election in the near future will no doubt drive what’s in Stephen Harper’s second throne speech. The successful implementation of promises in last year’s speech may give the Tories some confidence. But analysts say they’ll need to present a more substantial agenda this time.

The flip-side of a tightly-crafted throne speech, says de Clercy, is that critics can claim that the Tories “have run out of ideas” and start asking “now what?”


Child Advocacy Group Watching Throne Speech
October 14, 2007 Staff

Political tongues are wagging in advance of Tuesday’s Throne Speech. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will reconvene Parliament with an outline of his upcoming plans. Harper has said that every piece of legislation proposed in the speech will be subject to a confidence vote. There is wide speculation of a fall election, countered with promises of other parties “propping up” the minority Conservative government.

Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, has outlined five non-negotiable conditions for his party’s unconditional support.

One of these conditions has child care advocates up in arms. Duceppe fully supports a limit on federal spending power. For provincially-run programs – like child care – to get a slice of Ottawa’s money, they must adhere to national standards. Duceppe argues that this compromises Quebec’s distinct identity.

Morna Ballantyne is the co-ordinator of Code Blue For Child Care, a national advocacy group.  She supports federal spending power, as “this constitutional provision is the mechanism that gave us Medicare.”  She continues, “Quebec’s needs can be addressed without imposing on all Canadians a measure that makes sense only for Quebec.”

In 2005, the Liberal government signed child-care agreements with the province. The catch? Provinces had to report regularly and direct the money to regulated services. This program was cut after the Conservative government came to power.

Of course, the speech isn’t till Tuesday. Ballantyne and other child care advocates are ready, and watching.