Think small, act big
: Investing in our children
- it's good business!
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
Mayor's Business Breakfast
Oakville Banquet and Conference Centre
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Thanks very much for the warm introduction Mayor Mulvale
It's a great compliment to be invited to speak at one of
the Mayor's quarterly breakfasts right here in Oakville. It's
also a great compliment to participate in an event sponsored
by Big Brothers of Halton. As you may know, September is designated
Big Brothers Big Sisters Month across the country; RBC Financial
Group takes pride in supporting the Big Brothers Big Sisters
organizations from coast to coast
it's gratifying to
see familiar faces in the audience that are connected to these
One special person and great Canadian connected to Big Brothers,
is none other than Ann Mulvale herself. Here's what Big Brothers
of Halton had to say about the Mayor: "Mayor Mulvale
has unconditionally supported Big Brothers of Halton. (She)
raises funds and participates in the organization's Curling
Bonspiel each year. She's active in helping promote Big Brothers
at meetings, Open Houses and community events; Mayor Mulvale
believes in the mentoring concept and is a role model for
young men and women alike. Her approachability, kind manner
and strong advocacy ability makes her a loved and respected
representative of our town." Needless to say, I was impressed
with this telling description, although not surprised! And
there's more about your Mayor
Some of you may also be aware that Ann Mulvale was the keynote
speaker at Sheridan College's Convocation on June 12th. Among
many things, she reminded the graduates of a quote by Helen
Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
and then went on to say: "My wish for you is that your
life in every aspect continues or becomes a daring adventure."
Once again, I was impressed!
As I begin to share some thoughts about think small,
act big: investing in our children, I want you to know
(especially the Mayor) that you'll hear about Big Brothers
of Halton more than one more time in my remarks
goal is to take all of you on a daring adventure
for the next 15 minutes. By the way, I urge each and every
one of you to read the Mayor's speech in its entirety - no
matter what stage in life, it's an uplifting piece that will
make you think big time!
Over the past few decades, public sector, academic and community
leaders have invested time, expertise, and resources to improve
education and cultivate a prosperous world-class workforce.
In this new millennium, it's become increasingly clear that
one of the major missing pieces to better achieving this goal
is pushing the envelope on early childhood education and care
- investing in our children.
There's no doubt we have Dr. Fraser Mustard and the Canadian
Institute of Advanced Research (CIAR) to thank for expanding
our brainpower in the area of early childhood development.
There's also no doubt that the time is now to convince corporate
Canada to take a more active interest and leadership role
in supporting childhood education and care. The key to convincing
business revolves around building and selling a compelling
business case - demonstrating that investing in our children
is good business. This is why we should think small (as in
and act big (as in our investment). Let's get
Corporate leaders need to hear and talk about research findings
to get the message about various risk factors: current and
future customers, employees and stakeholders, a healthier
workplace (work/life initiatives), increased productivity,
a more attractive bottom line and corporate responsibility.
Equally important is the contribution of early childhood development
and care to the creation and nurturing of human capital. Here's
some research at work that shows investing in children is
- Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald of the Federal Reserve
Bank of Minneapolis maintain that, "Early childhood
development programs are rarely portrayed as economic development
and this is a mistake. Such programs often
appear at the bottom of economic development lists. They
should be at the top. Studies find that well-focused investments
in early childhood development yield high public as well
as private returns."
- "For every $1 spent on child care there is a $2
economic benefit. The benefit comes back through increased
tax revenues, and decreased social, education and health
- "A child's brain development in the first six years
of life sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour
- "If the first few years of life include support
for growth in cognition, language, motor skills, adaptive
skills and social-emotional functioning, the child is more
likely to succeed in school and later contribute to society."
- "Children who are in day-care and other early-childhood
programs have a head start in school over those who stay
at home with a parent. By the time they get to kindergarten,
the children in programs have better communication, learning
and math skills regardless of family income or their mother's
Human capital development and productivity
- "Over the current decade, the growth rate in the
0-12 year age group will be negative. The implications of
these demographic trends for human capital development [are
with a small cohort of children to replace
those retiring over the next two decades, it's more important
than ever that the human capital of children be developed
as fully as possible if we are to raise the productivity
of a future smaller labour force."
- High-quality early childhood education produces "long-term
positive outcomes and cost-savings that include improved
school performance, reduced special education placement,
lower school dropout rates, and increased lifelong earning
potential. Not only does high-quality early childhood education
make a difference for children, it matters to their employed
parents. Employers increasingly find that the availability
of good early childhood programs is critical to the recruitment
and retention of parent employees."
- "Companies have also found that there are business
benefits, including improved recruitment and retention,
when they assist their own employees with early childhood
- "Employees with access to family-supportive programs
and policies are more likely to be satisfied with their
jobs, to be loyal, to go the extra mile to help their companies
succeed, and to stay at their jobs."
- "It's estimated that work-life conflicts cost Canadian
organizations roughly $2.7 billion in lost time due to work
absences (this figure does not include indirect costs such
as replacement of the employee during the absence, overtime
costs or reduced service or productivity.)"
- "Numerous studies reveal there's a cost to business
in not responding to employees' need for reliable and good-quality
early childhood programs. Employees are likely to miss work
when they spend long hours trying to find early childhood
programs or when they deal with the often tenuous arrangements
they have, especially when arrangements fall apart. When
employees are at work worrying about their children, they
have difficulty concentrating."
Facts, figures, and return on investment are the kind of
language that business understands. And the message is clear:
we all bear a burden for failing to provide the "right
start" to our children. We bear it as parents, taxpayers
The time is now for more business leaders to view early childhood
programs and child care as an economic issue, not just an
education or social issue. This is an important economic issue
because early childhood education and care enables parents
to work, learn and train while helping to prepare children
for a brighter future. As recommended in the Final Report,
Commission on Early Learning and Child Care for the City of
Toronto (May 2002), we must make the wise investments in child
care today to ensure a competitive workforce and economy tomorrow
and beyond. This is good business.
Minister John Manley's budget announcement (February 17,
2003) of "$900 million over five years to assist provinces
and territories to increase access to quality child care and
early learning opportunities, and $35 million over five years
First Nations children, primarily on reserve", was a
critical step in the right direction.
Since then, a federal/provincial/territorial Multilateral
Framework on Early Learning and Child Care has been developed/agreed
upon - one that builds on the commitments made by First Ministers
in 2000. Execution will make the difference. As well, Liberal
Party leadership candidates Sheila Copps and Paul Martin have
incorporated early childhood development and care in debate
platforms and policy vision.
Also in February, Minister Robert Nault (Indian Affairs and
Northern Development), released the results of a national
survey of First Nations people living on-reserve. Respondents
indicated that early childhood education is essential for
aboriginal children; it means healthier beginnings and increases
overall education success.
Minister Jane Stewart (Human Resources Development Canada)
continues to speak about Putting Children First -
saying that, "investing in a sound social policy has
a profound and positive effect on Canada's economy."
On August 25, she co-chaired a federal/provincial/territorial
meeting of ministers responsible for social services in Yellowknife,
where the focus was on children's issues and child care.
Senator Landon Pearson's leadership (Advisor on Children's
Rights and Vice Chair, National Children's Agenda Caucus Committee)
is second to none. The Senate of Canada's newsletter, Children
on the Hill tells the story.
John Godfrey (MP for Don Valley West and Chair, National
Children's Agenda Caucus Committee), has shown impressive
leadership with "A National Child Care Strategy: Getting
the architecture right now", a Report of the National
Liberal Caucus Social Policy Committee with the collaboration
of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy (November 2002).
It's clear that early childhood education and care is on
the political agenda. Now, this agenda must move forward to
the next level, which means putting money directly into child
care and making high-quality early childhood education and
care a national/universal priority, while focusing on the
children most in need. This investment in early education
should be a coordinated effort to ensure program quality and
to serve more children, including aboriginal children.
Business has a key role to play in helping to nudge
government action on early childhood development and care
issues - in helping to influence public policy. Business also
needs to support governments in developing national/regional
early childhood education and care programs to replace the
"patchwork" of projects and initiatives that are
in place today. Since the underlying goal of corporate responsibility
is prosperity for Canada, the private sector should increase
its support of children, education and learning. Prosperity
depends on well-developed minds - intelligence, imagination,
ingenuity and innovation. Advocating sound policy and establishing
innovative strategies for early childhood education and care
will contribute to Canada's prosperity.
Let's talk about business strategies/action plans
When it comes to children, there are unlimited business possibilities:
- workplaces that employ on-site/near-site child care centres
- child care subsidies
- after-school programs
- parental networks, information and referral services
- investing in/sponsoring targeted children's initiatives
- workplaces that broaden their scope re job sharing, flexible
hours, extended maternity leave, and family care leaves
- workplaces that encourage representation on children's
These are all elements of a sound business strategy, and
they will aid in developing human capital, promoting a healthier
workplace and creating a competitive advantage. This is good
Let's talk about business, government and community partnerships
There's a whole host of opportunities for business investment
in childhood education and care - in employees and families.
We must continue to listen to the voice of our employee partners
(primarily through work/life initiatives) in order to help
meet objectives and expectations.
We also know the private sector can collaborate with governments/institutions
and community partners for the development/support of children.
Partnerships with the private sector are an essential piece
of the Canadian early childhood education and care investment.
Corporations are part of the community. My RBC colleagues
in Oakville (several of whom are here today) and I know that
the best solutions are community-based.
Best practices are almost always about partnerships. When
it comes to making a difference for children, business has
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 development.
This is also good business.
And speaking of leadership and partnerships, let's take a
closer look at Oakville:
- "The Sheridan College Child Care Centre in Oakville
provides high quality programming based on the High/Scope
Philosophy of education. The High/Scope Curriculum is based
on the well-documented research at the High/Scope Foundation
in Michigan. Children are seen as "Active Learners"
who, supported by their teachers, develop new understanding
through active exploration of materials, ideas and events."
This is good news for business.
- Community projects thrive here with a local focus on
social, health, recreation, library, school, businesses
or organizations serving children and families. For example,
the YMCA of Oakville (which is well known to RBC) serves
parents and children through a range of programs including
creative play and life skills development. What a pleasure
to see Angela Gidman-Patient and Lisa Dodd here this morning.
- In the past year, Big Brothers of Halton has tripled
its In-School Mentoring matches from 30 to 86 at year-end;
reduced its waiting list from 60 to 35; increased 1:1 matches
from 40 to 60, in addition to facilitating supplementary
programs to meet the needs of children and families. Community
involvement is the key to success. As one Little Brother
recently said, " My Big Brother is my best friend.
He spends time with me and he does not even have to. When
I grow up, I am going to be a Big Brother like him and help
make someone happy like he made me." All I can say
- And as I glance around the room
from Mayor Ann Mulvale,
Joyce Savoline (Regional Chair), Jennifer Santos and Lena
Bassford (Big Brothers of Halton), Karen Chan and Barbara
Minogue (Ontario's Promise) and Allison Picard (United Way
of Oakville), to Robin Farb (University of Toronto), John
Breakey and Laura Babcock (Oakville Chamber of Commerce),
Elaine Scrivener (Oakville Economic Development Alliance)
and the woman who contacted me about speaking at this breakfast
in the first place - Kathy Chadder (Big Brothers of Halton)
and the list goes on (if only there was time to single out
all of you)
you're all champions in my mind and in
the minds of those people whose lives you touch each and
It's important to note that the Canadian Council of Chief
Executives (CCCE) is a marvelous business forum to help shape
sound public policy in Canada, North America and the world.
And our business leadership hardly stops there. The Toronto
City Summit Alliance placed early childhood development on
its agenda (June 5, 2003) and children's advocates around
the country are encouraging business champions to make childhood
education and care a top priority.
In closing, early child education and care thrives on interdependence
and collaboration in order to work and work well - it requires
leadership at all levels and business leadership at a high
level. It's time for business to step up to the plate - it's
time for our leadership voice to be heard in greater numbers.
"In today's world, where education and skill levels determine
future earnings, the economic and social costs to individuals,
communities, and the nation of not taking action on early
childhood education are far too great to ignore, especially
when the benefits far outweigh the costs."
and act big. It's never too early to invest
in children - the bottom line is that early childhood
education and care is very good business
a daring adventure!