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Advocates, feds disagree on child care [CA]

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Pedwell, Terry
Publication Date: 
1 Nov 2004

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Child care advocates say the federal government must work toward a "modest" $10-billion annual investment in day care.

The recommendation comes as federal and provincial ministers responsible for children begin talks in Ottawa aimed at creating a national day care program. The Liberal government is offering the provinces $5 billion over five years and Social Development Minister Ken Dryden was unable to make clear Monday whether even $1 billion of that would flow in the first year.

"Of course, you'd like to get the $1 billion out (in year one), and whether we'd be able to, that's another question," he said outside the Commons.

"We want to come to an agreement by February . . . so the money can start flowing in April."

That amount isn't nearly enough according to the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, which releases a report Tuesday.

Entitled From Patchwork To Framework: Highlights of a Child Care Strategy For Canada, the report proposes spending one per cent of GDP on day care within 15 years.

That translates into about $10 billion annually, "a modest and minimum investment for the one-third of Canadian youngsters under six," the group says.

It points out that six per cent of GDP is devoted to educating older children.

The association also wants Ottawa to make the provinces accountable for any new federal money they receive for day-care programs, ensuring funds are directed to regulated public and non-profit child care services.

The provinces - notably Quebec - are insisting that they get the money with no strings attached.

Dryden didn't make it clear whether he'll insist on accountability.

Current federal transfers to the provinces for early childhood services require only loose reporting with no penalties for non-compliance. The CCAAC wants funding to provinces and territories tied to "standards, service and quality goals and timelines outlined in legislation."

An international report released a week ago criticized Canada's child care system as a "fragmented" patchwork of programs.

The report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development referred to the system as babysitting for working parents that mostly disregards early education.

The OECD report, however, lauded Quebec for its ambitious early education and care policies. Quebec accounts for about 40 per cent of regulated child-care centres in Canada.

- reprinted from the Canadian Press