Early Childhood Investment: The Business/Community
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
Summit on Early
Investing in Today's Children
Hotel Fort Garry
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Thanks very much for the introduction
bonjour, good morning everyone!
delighted to be back in Winnipeg, especially on National
Child Day! It's hard to believe twelve years have passed
since I led the RBC Royal Bank team in Manitoba! I share
award-winning author Carol Shields' sentiment when she said
last month: "Winnipeg was the best thing that ever
happened to me
I loved the community, I feel at home
should know that I hear what's happening in the city and
the province all the time. I heard about Winnipeg on Late
Night with David Letterman and about Manitoba on an episode
of the West Wing
and who could miss Winnipeg's Nia
Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame on Saturday Night
LIVE earlier this month. Gary Doer's explanation of all
this media hype is that "Manitoba is the centre of
North America", so it's a natural to be the centre
of attention and action.
And speaking of the centre of attention and action
been keeping up with CentreVenture, the new site for Red
River College, the Business Council of Manitoba (and President
Jim Carr's recent article, "Manitoba's advantage is
people") the Port of Churchill advisory board, the
biotechnology industry surge in Manitoba, the recent Blueprint
for the Future career fair for aboriginal youth, the United
Way of Winnipeg's campaign news: Reaches 81% of $13.6 million
goal (no wonder Portage/Main was temporarily re-named United
Way - I can imagine campaign chair Gail Asper's delight
at that one), the unprecedented donation of $100 million
to the Winnipeg Foundation by the Moffat family (I read
Kevin Rollason's, "Giving from the heart", November
17th piece in the Winnipeg Free Press)
the excellent work of the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet,
led by Tim Sale. All I can say is "wow" - and
I've only scratched the surface of what's been happening
in this great city and province.
On this special day, it's a pleasure to share some thoughts about
Early Childhood Investment: The Business/Community Imperative.
I met with Pat Wege, executive director of the Manitoba
Child Care Association (MCCA) this morning, to learn more
about the Centre and the programs it offers - programs that
support those who provide early years education and care.
I was thrilled to find out that MCCA now operates out of
space leased from RBC Royal Bank, on the second floor of
our McPhillips and Court branch. While chatting with Pat
and others, I was reminded of the African proverb, "It
takes a village to raise a child" - that each member
of the community has a stake in supporting children, helping
them become successful adults.
African proverb also symbolizes my connection
in supporting early years development because it's an economic
investment that needs more federal, provincial and municipal
government action. RBC has a vested interest in this issue
and can help influence government policy and public opinion.
The development of human capital at an early age is key
to a thriving economy.
involved because it's an economic investment that requires
corporate/business action. As a business leader, I have
a responsibility to push the envelope on high priority issues
- and what's more important than children? Businesses "should
strive to be family and child-friendly employers; to provide
enriched child care that connects to elementary schools
where appropriate; to have policies that are sensitive to
the involvement of employees in the education of their children;
and to be bold and creative regarding the importance of
parental leave for new parents."
I'm also involved because it's an economic investment that
needs more community action - kids are everybody's business.
Integrated early years programming is a sound community
investment. As a children's advocate (and parent), the only
way to make a difference is to get involved and get others
involved! There's the cost of doing nothing
the cost of not doing enough.
From my participation in the Ontario Government's Early Years
Study three years ago and the post-Study group that looked
at how the private sector could become more involved in
the early years challenge, to the Commission on Early Learning
and Child Care for the City of Toronto, two names are an
intrinsic part of my initial connection/ongoing commitment:
The Honourable Margaret McCain and Dr. Fraser Mustard. I
thought of them, many other champions and Canada's children
while listening to Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson read
the Speech from the Throne on September 30th, especially
the following: "
the government will work with
its partners to increase access to early learning opportunities
and to quality child care, particularly for poor and lone-parent
So when The Honourable Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State
(Children and Youth) announced a "funding allocation
of $320 million over the next five years for a strategy
to improve and expand Early Childhood Development (ECD)
programs/services for First Nations and other aboriginal
children" on Halloween (a day for children), it was
apparent this action plan picked up on the Speech from the
Throne commitment and recommendations of the Sub-committee
on Children/Youth at Risk - the June 2002 Building on Success
Report. It was also reassuring to note that Ministers Anne
McLellan (Health), Jane Stewart (Human Resources Development
Canada) and Bob Nault (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)
are working "towards the development of a single window
approach to ensure better integration and coordination."
Do we still need to nudge government action on this issue?
Absolutely. Is this a positive step forward? Absolutely.
Given this positive impetus, how do we become more engaged
and energized with supporting early childhood development?
What's the strategic and competitive advantage for Manitoba
business, government, labour, educators, the not-for-profit
sector, aboriginal leadership, the community and the media
to work together when it comes to investing in the right
start for children? I'm preaching to the converted here
would happen if this room was also filled with Manitoba's
top 100 CEOs?
tell them that the momentum for the early years is catching
more steam at home and around the globe. At a United Nations
Special Session on May 9th, Microsoft chief executive Bill
Gates and the CEOs of several other international corporations
told UN and NGO (non-governmental organization) leaders
that they want to work with them for the well being of the
world's children. The private sector in Canada can also
use its influence with governments and institutions, as
well as promote good health practices - and work, in collaboration
for the development/support of children. You may be interested
to know that the commitments made at this Special Session
paved the way for the theme of National Child Day 2002:
A World Fit for Children.
be sure to mention that 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. Work-family conflicts cost
businesses another $4.7 billion a year. We all bear a burden
for failing to provide the "right start" to our
children. Perhaps I could refer CEOs to a new study published
in the May 2002 issue of the American Journal Psychological
Science; it finds that "better caregiver training and
lower staff-child ratios in child care settings lead to
improvements in children's cognitive skills and social competence."
CEOs would also receive The Early Years Study Three Years Later
(McCain/Mustard - August 2002), and the Healthy Child Manitoba
(HCM) annual report (2001-2002). Would I encourage CEOs
(their support teams) to check out the HCM web site? You
bet I would, along with other sites/sources. And you're
I wouldn't inundate them with this information
at once - one document and one web site at a time! And without
a doubt, we (a Manitoba early years champion and I) would
also meet with CEOs, as nothing really replaces face-to-face
one CEO at a time!
As co-chair of the Commission for Early Learning and Child
Care for the City of Toronto, I would talk to CEOs about
our Final Report - especially the important linkages for
Manitoba. Although the federal government must lead the
way, the provincial government should establish a framework
to implement the main recommendations of the Early Years
Study; and cities should expand coalitions with the district
school board and community partners
the private sector
needs to recognize that early years development is a business
issue and a topic for the boardroom, where the stakes are
high. Business can also use its clout to encourage/support
government action at every level. (By the way
is interested, I brought a few copies of the Report with
me and it's also on the web site, www.torontochildren.com/research).
I would remind CEOs that early learning and child care supports
innovation and successful cities (a Glen Murray theme),
as it improves school performance, reduces social assistance
costs, expands economic activity, supports diversity and
enhances family/work life. We know that the development
of a child cannot take place without nurturing and care
- that it's counterproductive to separate the needs of children
from their parents/families. Supporting children and supporting
child care go hand in hand.
Corporations are part of the community
and the best
solutions are community-based. When it comes to children,
there are unlimited possibilities and strategies - I would
ask CEOs the following:
- Has your workplace considered on-site/near-site child care centres, child care subsidies, after-school programs, parental networks, information and referral services, or investing in/sponsoring targeted children's initiatives?
- Has your workplace broadened its scope re job sharing, flexible hours, extended maternity leave, and family care leaves? Do you encourage representation on children's advocacy boards? These are elements of a sound business strategy, a healthier workplace and a competitive advantage.
And I would also indicate what RBC Financial Group is doing
- that the underlying goal of our corporate citizenship programs
is prosperity for Canada/Canadians. To achieve this, we must
support education and learning - we must support children/young
people - as future prosperity depends on well-developed minds
- intelligence, imagination, ingenuity and innovation. We
must continue to foster partnerships/relationships with business,
government, communities and our own employees (work/life initiatives)
in order to meet these objectives. There's much to do and
For example, RBC invests substantial funds in after-school
programs that offer development opportunities for kids. Andrews
Street Family Centre and the Winnipeg Boys & Girls Club
are two RBC After-School Grant recipients in the city. I'm
happy to see Heather Block from Andrews Street and Mike Owen
from the Boys & Girls Club here today. Two other recipients
include: the Brandon YMCA and Thompson Boys & Girls Club.
We also support the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba Elementary
Classroom Teacher Award, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People
and the Flin Flon Indian Metis Friendship Association, just
to name a few.
We're most proud of our partnership with the University of
Winnipeg and its Aboriginal Mentor/Tutor Program, along with
the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP), which provides
cutting-edge high-impact information on health care issues
in Manitoba and Canada. The University of Manitoba is the
only research centre in the world with access to such a comprehensive
health-use database. And the Centre has earned international
acclaim for innovation in research, particularly in child
health. RBC Financial Group's grant ($750,000 over the next
five years) will pay for the RBC Clinical Child Health Research
Fellowship, bringing in physicians/researchers to study the
effect of social indicators on children's health.
The bottom line is that making a difference for children
and youth is a shared responsibility. Partnerships encourage
business to be catalysts for change - to show their heart.
What a great way to build a civic/civil society and promote
social/economic development. Healthy Child Manitoba knows
what I mean as it's been developing partnerships for several
To top it off, I would chat with CEOs about the Manitoba
early years development work-in-progress success story - a
story about vision: a story about increased funding for child
care centres/family child care homes; a story about providing
the full National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) to families
with children six years of age and under; a story about increased
funding for the BabyFirst program, which provides a three-year
home visiting service for newborns; a story about additional
support for Parent-Child Centred Activities - for community
coalitions to provide parenting support, children's nutrition
and literacy programming in their own communities; a story
about Stop FAS, a three-year mentoring program for women at
risk of having a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; a story
about the new child care Internet search tool; and a compelling
story about research and "measurement matters."
And we could also talk about Roots of Empathy, an emotional
literacy organization designed to reduce childhood aggression
and break the parent/child cycle of abuse. This classroom-based
parenting program was funded by Healthy Child Manitoba for
the Seine River School Division - marking the first time it's
been offered at all schools in a single division across Canada.
Last week, Roots of Empathy founder Mary Gordon, (along with
Margaret McCain and others) was honoured for her work by being
named a recipient of the first annual Fraser Mustard Award.
Whether private funding is allocated to help the Indian and
Metis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg hire a program coordinator
for aboriginal girl guide groups and the Society for Manitobans
with Disabilities renovate its communications centre for children,
or federal government funding (announced last week in Winnipeg
by Sheila Copps) is allocated to groups that promote education,
job training and awareness, i.e., the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata
Centre, Rossbrook House, The Salvation Army in Canada, Circle
of Life Thunderbird House, or the Winnipeg Metis Association,
the common thread is children.
This room is filled with children's advocates/supporters
McGifford, Pat Martin, Doug Martindale, Marianne Cerilli and
Jon Gerrard - all well-known politicians/community leaders;
Dennis Whitebird, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, David Chartrand,
Manitoba Metis Federation, Beverly Watson of the Aboriginal
Business Leader & Entrepreneurs, Janine Bertrand, Federation
provinciale des comites de parents du Manitoba, Natalie Duhamel
(whose father will forever be proud), Sister Bernadette O'Reilly,
Rossbrook House and of course Jan Sanderson, Rob Santos. Strini
Reddy and the team who put this summit together
there was time to single out each and every one of you!
RBC Financial Group will continue to make children/youth
one of our priorities and give greater focus to the early
I'll also continue to urge my colleagues at RBC
(several are here today - Mark Odegard, Archie Arnott, Gina
Carnevale, Linda Park, Lynn Fowler) and in business to find
investing in children partners. I urge all of you to remind
business associates, about the strategic value of this investment
- not once, but again and again. I urge Shirley Denesiuk (Manitoba
Hydro) to chat with Bob Brennan, Laurel Repski (The Canadian
Wheat Board) to chat with Greg Arason and Malcolm Tinsley
(The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company) to chat with Gregg
Hanson after this Summit.
A few months ago, the Prime Minister announced the creation
of a new Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Early Childhood
Education. This award is an extension of the Prime Minister's
Awards for Teaching Excellence (of which RBC is proud to be
a corporate partner) that honour exceptional elementary/secondary
As the Prime Minister said: "Research has shown that
the early years are critical to establishing a strong foundation
for learning, behaviour and health over lifetimes. Dedicated
and talented early childhood educators are key builders of
this foundation. The award will recognize the critical role
that early childhood educators play in shaping the lives of
Canada's young children and will include a special focus on
aboriginal early childhood educators." I know there are
marvelous teachers and educators - ideal candidates for this
prestigious award - right here in this room.
The time is now to get more business representation at events
like this one and to address the same issue as David Lawrence
Jr., retired publisher of the Miami Herald in the US and president
of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in Miami: why
the media should care more about childhood development. In
an April 1, 2001 article he says: "
a few years
ago, I had no idea of how important a newspaper story this
is. A few years ago, the matter of brain research underscoring
the crucial nature of a child's earliest years had never crossed
my mind. School readiness is about children growing - socially,
emotionally, physically and intellectually - so they are ready
and eager to learn by the time they reach first grade. It's
about the blending of education, health and nurturing in the
earliest years. Put it together, and you have a big story
and a story still mostly untold. The move toward universal
readiness programs - a holistic system for all children birth
to age 5 - is mostly covered, if at all, in a fragmented way.
Surely we could give readers what they truly need to know
about brain research, finding good child care and other elements
of successful child-rearing." Surely Manitoba can get
Rudy Redekop, Gordon Norrie, Martin Cash, Wendy Stephenson
and others more involved!
As a former board member of the Manitoba Children's Museum,
I value its vision: "a respect for and belief in the
potential of all children" and its philosophy, "I
hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand."
With this kind of thinking, I'm not surprised that Manitoba
has earned an early years development pacesetter and action-oriented
reputation over the years. It makes me think of some graffiti
I saw on a wall in the north end of Winnipeg many years ago:
Talk - Action = 0.
In the wake of an uncertain environment that continues to
preoccupy the world, it's more important that we champion
children and place their futures at the top of our agendas.
When it comes to enlightened leadership, just remember the
African proverb and glance around this village!
Now, let's chat about ideas/good practices for a few minutes
I would really enjoy hearing from you!
Thank you, Merci beaucoup, Meegwetch!