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Families Can Refuse Day-Care
March 31, 2006 permalink
Policy changes by the Conservative government have averted a universal day-care program for pre-schoolers. In Dufferin, children from reluctant families might have been sent to day-care by force of arms, except ironically, children in foster care, who are never placed in day-care.
No start for Best Start in Dufferin
Starting up the Best Start program in Dufferin has been put on hold until the provincial government can guarantee they will pay for it.
"We are not prepared to take a leap of faith on this," says Dan Best, director of community services for the county.
"We want to make sure we don't set this community up for failure."
Funding for Best Start was called into question when the new federal government announced in February that it plans to back out of the deal.
"We want to make sure, in writing, that the province will cover the program for 2006, 2007," says Best.
Before the federal election, the Liberal government approved $1.9 billion in funding in a five-year deal with Ontario to boost child care services in the province.
The provincial government, in turn, created Best Start, a program that attempts to improve access for parents and young children to early learning and care.
The province began channelling the money to municipalities for locally created early child learning initiatives.
Last year, the county received $1.6 million in an unconditional grant.
Over five years, the Best Start program would have created 130 new child care spaces and brought over $6 million in funding to Dufferin County.
As part of the plan, Best says they were going to move the Ontario Early Years Centre, currently located on Broadway, to Island Lake public school, which would be the hub of the local Best Start program.
This hub would have had similar services to Early Years, with programming for parents and children, but there would have also been child care on site.
As well, there would have been satellite centres set up at Montgomery Village public school, Princess Margaret public school and, potentially, in Grand Valley.
As well, the Early Years Centre, which is currently moving into the Mel Lloyd Centre in Shelburne, would have become a Best Start hub in that community.
"We did extensive consultations with community stake holders to come up with this plan," Best says. "It's a community-based, grassroots approach."
However, the federal government announced in February that it will phase out the funding agreements with the provinces in favour of a $100 per month allowance for every child under six years old.
Dufferin-Caledon MP David Tilson supports the Conservative's plan.
"We want to give choices to parents," he says. "There are different ways of raising children. If we compensate those who work, we should compensate those who don't."
He says the government's plan would benefit not just stay-at-home parents, but shift workers and parents in rural areas who may not need traditional day care or have access to it.
"I think people in Dufferin and Caledon will like it," he says.
Tilson adds that the monthly allowance will be in addition to current child subsidies such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, that are directed towards low income families.
The Best Start program will receive federal dollars until March 2007.
Best says considering this, the county wants to make sure if they start the program, they can ensure its viability.
"You can't miss something if you haven't had it," he said.
County council is asking the provincial government for assurances. They want an unconditional grant to ensure the flow of money for the 2006-2007 year of the program.
If the provincial money can be guaranteed, the county can go ahead with its plans but on a smaller scale than originally planned.
James Ip, spokesperson for Mary Anne Chambers, the provincial Minister of Children and Youth Services, says they hope the federal government will change its mind.
"We are still calling on the federal government to honour the initial agreement," he says.
Tilson says that's not going to happen. "I don't think there's a hope in heck," he says. "We're committed to this."
The Conservatives' plan will be subject to the budgetary process, but if it is approved it will be implemented in July 2006.
According to the 2006 provincial budget, released last week, if the federal government does back out, the provincial government will only make up $127 million of the $1.4 billion originally expected for the program.
Ip says the province will work with their "municipal partners" to get the programs going across the province and hope for the best.
Source: Orangeville Banner