Open Letter to the Honourable Jane Stewart
TORONTO, Nov. 20 /CNW/ -
Hon. Jane Stewart
Minister of Human Resources Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage
November 20, 2002
Dear Minister Stewart,
I read with interest the November 19, 2002 article in the Globe and Mail in which you criticised Ontario's use of Early Childhood Development funding. I would like to take this opportunity to correct the public record by presenting the facts of the September 2000 First Ministers' agreement and update you on Ontario's latest initiatives with respect to childcare.
As you are no doubt aware, the First Minister's Meeting Communiqué on Early Childhood Development dated September 11, 2000 states that "governments will work together in full respect of each other's responsibilities, recognizing that provinces and territories have the primary responsibility for early childhood development programs and services. Each government will determine its priorities within this framework."
In Ontario, we developed a strategy that invests in improving the health and well being of children under six, helping parents in their important role, providing equal access to information across the province, and helping communities address the needs of their youngest children. We have both enhanced existing services and introduced a number of new programs to provide a broader spectrum of services.
A cornerstone of our support for child development is the Early Years Plan. The Plan builds on research and community strengths to create a province-wide initiative that is flexible and responds to the broad needs of Ontario's children and families.
Ontario's Early Years Plan features a two-pronged approach of universal programs available to all the province's children and targeted programs that encourage healthy development of children with specific difficulties such as autism or mental health issues.
A key goal of the Ontario Early Years Plan is to increase public awareness of the importance of a child's early years for healthy development. To further that goal, the government has to date opened 42 Ontario Early Years Centres in 17 communities across the province.
The Centres offer a gateway to supports that address common needs, such as literacy programs, nutrition programs, and resources for parents and caregivers. They also provide other services tailored to the unique needs of each community. The Centres are staffed with child development and early years professionals and volunteers to deliver programs and to support parents and caregivers in finding the information, programs or services they need.
I have a letter dated May 9, 2002 from you indicating your support for the Brant Early Years Centre in your riding and how proud you were that the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Early Childhood Development Agreement has assisted the Government of Ontario to make these new investments. I trust your commitment to Brant and other Centres across the province has not changed.
Supplemented by the Federal Early Childhood Development funding, Ontario has made unprecedented improvements in the lives of children. Ontario this year is investing $2.2 Billion including the $153 million in transfers from ECD in the future of our kids.
We doubled the funding for autism bringing the total commitment to almost $100 million by 2006/07, enhanced the Early Years Challenge Fund, Funded Aboriginal Children Nutritional Programs, Healthy Babies/Healthy Children Program, Infant Development, Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP) Program, Early Years Literature Initiative, and invested money in children's mental health, to name but a few of our initiatives.
Shortly we will release the first in a series of yearly reports to Ontario's families on our Early Years Plan. The Report accounts for how we used the Federal funds so that Ontario's youngest children can get the best start in life. Most importantly, the reports will let some parents who experienced the benefits of Ontario's Early Years Plan tell you how it worked for their own young children.
Ontario supports the Early Childhood Communiqué of September 11, 2000 and I believe it is inaccurate to criticize Ontario by claiming that we chose "not to invest at all in child care". In fact, this year alone the provincial government will spend more than $700 million to help Ontario parents with their childcare needs. This includes wage subsidies for childcare workers in licensed centres to further subsidize costs.
Over the past six years the provincial government has made, and continues to make, tremendous improvements to childcare options. We must provide a wide range of supports for all parents, so that they can make the best choices for their children.
Ontario's childcare funding initiatives focus on parental choice and flexibility. Parents, not governments, are in the best position to make childcare choices for their children. We are listening to parents, and we know the majority have their children in informal care instead of institution-based care.
We are proud of the work we have done and realize that there is more to accomplish but with your help and financial commitment I am confident we can work together to give Ontario's children the best start in life.
Ontario is interested to see the Federal Government once again initiating the discussion on the often-promised National Childcare Strategy. I look forward to discussing this with you in the near future.
In the meantime, we continue developing new strategies and working hard to help Ontario's young children and families reach their full potential.
For further information: Christine Bujold, (416) 325-5219