Supporting Early Learning and Childcare:
A strategic investment
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
City of Greater Sudbury Council
Council Chamber - Tom Davies Square
Thursday, April 11, 2002
Thank you Mayor Gordon
and good evening!
I was especially pleased to receive an invitation from
Mark Mieto to participate in your meeting this evening -
and equally pleased to visit Sudbury again. Since the vision
of the City of Greater Sudbury "is a growing, world-class
community bringing talent, technology and a great northern
lifestyle together", I'm not surprised that the leaders
in this Chamber, the many individuals who have joined us
tonight and the city itself, are ahead of the pack in understanding
and supporting the economic case for early learning and
childcare. It's clear that this team will continue to push
the envelope on this strategic investment, spread the word
in the community and lead the call to action.
And as you all well know, it does start with a vision.
From Mayor Gordon's leadership on quality of life
initiatives for children and families, Ron Bradley's
focus on a "healthy community lifestyle", Ted
Callaghan's emphasis on technology applications, Doug
Craig's commitment to innovation/customer focus, David
Courtemanche's investment in renewable resources, Austin
Davey's focus on education and the environment and Ron
Dupuis's view on a thriving community, to Eldon Gainer's
commitment re second to none services, Dave Kilgour's
focus on changing development strategies, Lionel Lalonde's
determination to empower people in decision-making, Gerry
McIntaggart's desire to provide more opportunities for
our children and their children, Mike Petryna's commitment
to creating a city model and Louise Portelance's
outlook about a healthy community/vibrant economic future,
you're an outstanding City Council that makes a difference
- a Council that understands children are the foundation
of every vision - that children are our future!
First of all, I can assure you that the concept of a banker
and childcare is not an oxymoron
I'm involved in supporting
early years development because this is an economic issue
that all levels of government need to address, through concrete
action. I'm also involved because this is an economic issue
that all businesses need to understand in order to take
Society bears a great cost if it fails to provide young
people with the learning and development needed to succeed
- not just at work, in life. We know that learning is shaped
by early childhood experiences. Studies, research and the
reality of everyday life prove this time and time again.
We also know that lack of investment in the early years
can contribute to behavioural and learning problems. Dysfunctional
relationships. Academic failure. And all of the associated
juvenile delinquency, criminal behaviour,
teen pregnancy, substance abuse, chronic unemployment, poverty,
health risks. All of these can be related to conditions
set in the early years of life. All are costs that we share
as a society. Research from the Child Care Education Foundation,
says that today, it costs Canada $2.5 billion every year
for remedial education because of delayed interventions
or negative early experiences.
And if you want to better appreciate the return on investment,
consider this. Research also shows that for every dollar
spent on quality early education services, two dollars comes
back through increased tax revenues, and decreased social,
education and health costs. The economic case becomes evident.
My personal involvement in supporting early years (or 0-6),
development started a few years ago, when I served on the
Ontario Government's Early Years Study. We looked at ways
to prepare children for scholastic, career and social success
- from all socio-economic groups, not just at-risk youth
or those with special needs. The study co-chairs were the
Honourable Margaret McCain, former Lieutenant Governor of
New Brunswick and Dr. Fraser Mustard, medical scientist
and co-founder of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
After the McCain-Mustard study, Dr. Mustard and I assembled
a group to look further at how the private sector can become
involved in the early years challenge. This included organizations
like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses,
the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Auto Workers,
and several other businesses.
I continue to champion the early years, through Ontario's
Promise: The Partnership for Children and Youth. And more
recently, my involvement has been connected to the Early
Learning and Child Care Commission for the City of Toronto.
The Honourable Margaret McCain and I were appointed co-chairs
of this new Commission last October. This Commission, its
background, various findings, along with the first sneak
preview of recommendations, is the focus of my remarks.
You might wonder why Toronto decided to go with a Commission.
Very simply, the Early Learning and Child Care Commission
for the City of Toronto was established as part of a communication
and advocacy strategy to influence national/provincial policy
and funding support for early learning and childcare. "The
Commission is designed to raise the profile of cities as
centres of human and economic development; to increase funding
for early learning and care services; to influence national
policy on early learning/child care and to ensure Toronto
receives its share of funding from the Agreement on Early
Childhood Development Services (ECDS)". It's important
to note that the Commission is not being asked, "What
should be done" to support children and families in
Toronto, rather "How this can be accomplished"?
The Commission's timing is critical from the perspective
of influencing federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal
negotiations as the National Children's Agenda is rolled
out. While large urban areas are centres of economic and
human growth, they have been mainly excluded from intergovernmental
discussions on the well-being of children and families.
In addition, cities are a hot button right now. The push
is on for capital infrastructure investment to revive cities.
And the Commission makes a statement about the significant
need for a strong social infrastructure that offers the
quality of life advantage. A balancing act of sorts
We've consulted with over 100 federal, provincial and municipal
officials, business and community organizations, as well
as addressed the federal government's National Children's
Agenda Caucus Committee and a Sub-Committee on Children
and Youth at Risk. The Commission's Report, to be released
shortly, contains recommendations for all three levels of
government and the community. It will hopefully be beneficial
to communities at large, including the City of Greater Sudbury.
Since the Social Union Framework Agreement is currently
under review, there may be some pressure to demonstrate
the advantages of a new way of conducting business under
the agreement, which includes opportunities for the federal
government to engage in direct activities with individuals
and communities. This is a message that will likely resonate
well with Canadians.
It's widely accepted that the funding under the ECDS Agreement
is inadequate and must increase to meet child development
goals. The federal government included a commitment to children
in its election Red Book and reiterated this commitment
in its Throne Speech. This has raised expectations for increased
ECDS funding and support
The bottom line (says the Toronto Board of Trade) is that
if governments won't invest in cities - in children - neither
will businesses. A decline of sorts has already manifested
itself in Toronto; Fortune magazine sited Toronto
as the top city to do business in 1996, yet in 2000, the
city didn't make the "top 10" list.
Place Rated Almanac ranked Toronto fourth in 1996
and seventh in 2000. Countries are the sum of their cities
-- if the deterioration doesn't reverse itself, the Canada
we know won't survive. Turning this less than bright forecast
around necessitates investments in both capital and social
We've also found that early years development has been
interpreted to mean 'ABC' - anything but childcare. Children
learn from birth and the everyday aspects of life are their
textbooks. A young child's development cannot take place
without nurturing and care. Any attempt to separate development
from care is therefore artificial. It's also counterproductive
to separate the needs of children from their parents. How
ironic that so much of the provincial Early Childhood Development
(ECD) allocations are targeted at compensating children
for the inadequate care they receive.
I've mentioned various findings
here's a sneak preview
of the context of some Commission recommendations:
1. Everyone must be involved, but government must lead...as
opposed to what currently exists -- many are involved but
no one has responsibility. Canadians deserve and expect
accountability for public investments.
2. The provincial government should direct future allocations
to implementing the main recommendation of the Early Years
Study, i.e., use existing community capacity, resources
and expertise to build a system of child development and
parenting programs that simultaneously meets children's
development needs and parents' needs for non-parental care
3. The province needs to develop policy mandates, targets
and timetables as well as allow municipalities, the mandated
managers and co-founders of children's services, to exercise
their demonstrated expertise in this area.
4. Aboriginal children are particularly underserved - the
City should be working with the community to seek federal
dollars under the new off-reserve childcare initiative to
expand services here.
5. As a starting point, business needs to recognize that
this is an issue where it has a particular stake
needs to make early years development a topic in the boardroom.
Canadian business lags behind its U.S. and British counterparts
in this regard. Business can also use its clout to encourage/support
When we invest in our young people - in the early years
- we're really investing in keeping our economy strong and
competitive. That's the huge payoff. By investing in our
children, we're investing in a strong and healthy Canada.
Investing in children and youth simply makes sense.
And we must support partnerships that work towards these
ends. I can't say enough about the value of partnerships
between government, business and community groups. I firmly
believe that when it comes to making a difference for children
and youth, we all have a shared responsibility, and corporations
can play an important role. What a great way to build a
civic and civil society, plus promote social development.
Partnerships involving the private sector are essential.
Corporations are part of the community. And the best solutions
are community-based. When it comes to the early years, we
need to open our minds and think about all sorts of possibilities.
And that's exactly what I'll be talking about at tomorrow's
It's impossible for me to speak about children and early
years development without acknowledging some of the good
things happening in the City of Greater Sudbury:
- I took note of your Week of the Children
last October - "happy, healthy families are the foundation"
of your community - of all communities.
- I also read your National Child Benefit
Program Evaluation Executive Summary (December 2001) with
great interest. The familiar theme of increasing awareness,
education and communication among parents, families and
service providers, echoed in the recommendations.
The Mayor and Council's Children First Roundtable,
co-chaired by Councillor Louise Portelance and Janet Gasparini,
Executive Director of the Social Planning Council (and
launched last September) was a marvelous discovery for
me. I'd love to find out more about the activities of
the Roundtable - I'm already impressed with your recent
recognition of Dan Gareau, who's obviously a volunteer
extraordinaire and someone who believes in putting children
With the official opening of the Ontario
Early Years Centre in Sudbury on March 18th, the city
can now move ahead with more programs, services and information
for parents and caregivers of young children. From literacy
and interactive learning activities to parenting programs
covering all aspects of early child development, the Centre
will likely encourage increased interest and participation.
If there's sufficient time tomorrow, I'll make a point
of dropping by the Centre and chatting with Lois Mahon,
the Executive Director.
And your 2002 "Mapping the Vision"
document is also a testament to putting children first.
In closing, a focus on early childhood development shouldn't
be a controversial notion. Given the economic benefits down
the road, it's very much a strategic initiative. It's in
the national interest to do more. It's in the business interest
to do more too. At RBC Financial Group, we'll continue to
make children and youth one of our priorities and give even
greater focus to the early years.
Perhaps we can all learn from the Sudbury model
the Mayor said in his inaugural address, "we want health
care and we became the Regional Health Care Centre for the
North; we wanted an education centre and it happened; we
wanted to be a Retail Centre and we got that too; now what
do we want? We want a medical school, we want software companies,
we want a film industry and we want jobs, jobs, jobs".
Well, you have created the Northern Medical School; you
have created new jobs
with this spirit, determination
and team, does anyone doubt that the City of Greater Sudbury
will make its wish list come true and much more, particularly
when it comes to putting children first? May the City of
Toronto team enjoy a similar spirit and determination in
the months and years ahead on the issue of early learning
and childcare - supporting early years development.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to address City Council
tonight. I look forward to hearing about the ongoing successes
of Sudbury's early years initiatives
and if you prefer,
I'll send the full Toronto Commission Report to the Mayor's
Office as soon as it's released.