Let's "get on with it..."
Investing in children - it's our business!
Executive Vice President
RBC Financial Group
Early Childhood Development Speaker Series
The Grand Okanagan Lakefront Resort and Conference
Kelowna, British Columbia
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Linda, thanks very much for the warm introduction
While on a flight to Calgary last weekend, I had time to
catch up on some reading and the name Linda McKinlay popped
up in all sorts of material. In one instance, there was a
reference to your association with Bankhead Family Place,
the play-based, parenting enrichment program right here in
Kelowna. I was pleased to discover this project is aligned
with the Family and Literacy Centre model originated by Mary
Gordon. I understand that "research in Canada and the
U.S. demonstrated that this approach can greatly enhance a
child's abilities - intellectual, social and emotional
this will facilitate earlier detection of sensory and developmental
delay, enhance social support and enable parents to address
other childhood and family problems."
Then I saw Linda's name on a news release of Parenting
Press, a Seattle Washington based organization that "publishes
the best how-to information available for child guidance,
problem solving, emotional competence, and kids' personal
safety issues." As part of its 25th anniversary celebration,
various champions were singled out for achievements in parenting
education - "people who see needs in their own communities
and are persistent and creative in meeting those needs, even
when resources are limited." Congratulations Linda on
being selected as one of the 2004 award recipients in the
category of University Faculty - how very impressive for early
childhood education at Okanagan University College, for Kelowna,
British Columbia and Canada!
Thanks to Menno Salverda's invitation to participate in this
speaking series today, I'm visiting Kelowna during its exciting
centennial year. As the Kelowna Centennial Celebrations Committee
says on its web site: "the Centennial will give us an
opportunity to recognize that wonderful mix of hard work,
vision, determination, creativity and planning that has gotten
us here 100 years later."
And how marvelous that the major festivities to mark one
hundred years take place this May - which in British Columbia
coincides with Child Care Month. "It's a time to recognize
the importance of child care to families, and the exceptional
work of child care givers in communities around our province.
Everyone has a role to play in delivering child care. Each
day, parents make child care choices for their families, and
contribute to decision making with their providers. Children
interact in healthy, nurturing environments. Caregivers receive
training in early childhood education, and carry out exceptional
work to provide this valuable service."
Congratulations to everyone in this room for the extraordinary
work you do when it comes to investing in children.
Speaking of extraordinary
I want to acknowledge my RBC
colleagues from our Westbank First Nation Branch: Jacquie
Anderson, Branch Manager, Karen Parker, Assistant Manager
and Brett Drysdale, who is celebrating his third day at RBC
today. I'm very proud of what all RBCers in this area do,
not only for our clients, for the community at large.
I'm here to talk about investing in children - as it is our
business - it's everybody's business. It's clear that investing
in children is Kelowna's and B.C.'s business. Who can't help
but be impressed with what's happening in this city and region
- some of your initiatives have got us talking about "the
buzz" on the west coast - for example:
- On February 4, Stan Hagen, Minister of Children and Family
Development (MCFD) announced that "the quality of child
care in B.C. will be improved as a result of $1.5 million
in one-time funding to aboriginal and multicultural agencies,
eligible early childhood education students and organizations
that train child care providers." This statement followed
the Minister's words on October 26, 2004: "ten thousand
more children will be eligible for child care subsidy and
thousands of existing recipients will see their subsidies
increase in 2005
with a $33 million boost, we're creating
a stable, sustainable child care system, and we're doing
so in a responsible, accountable way." This is excellent
progress. It's good to see Doug Hayman and Kevin Ward from
MCFD here, along with Nadine Johnson who plays double duty
with Interior Health.
- The there's the work of Success By 6® - a community
based partnership that supports the enhancement of services
to young children and families, and that includes programs
which "help parents develop skills they need to provide
the nurturing, stimulation and nutrition that are essential
for their children to reach their potential." When
I read that "helping BC's aboriginal children get the
best possible start in life is the goal of a recent partnership
between the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society (ACCS) and
the provincial Success By 6® initiative, I could only
smile out loud. I'm confident that people like Carol Ellison
and Susan White will do a top-notch job of helping to "raise
awareness of the importance of early childhood development,
mobilize community resources and strengthen services for
young children and families" through Success By 6®.
- Interior Health's report, Investing in the Early Years
(May 2004) was right on the money when it said "investing
in early childhood requires striking a balance between meeting
the needs of the majority while addressing inequities."
And it didn't stop there
the report goes on to quote
Paul Hasselback who notes in "Moving Forward - For
the Sake of Our Children, 2002 (that) one of the greatest
debates within the public health community has been about
the relative value of targeted versus universal programming.
He concludes that both are needed. Effective preventive
services are important for families and children considered
most vulnerable - those often termed at risk - but to achieve
the greatest possible gains for the population, the needs
of the majority must be addressed. Studies elsewhere have
shown that large numbers of children who need support are
missed when the focus is narrowed to those defined as at
risk." Thank you Paul for helping all of us on the
road to self-enlightenment.
- I'm told this community is a pacesetter on a number of
initiatives. When a group of child care stakeholders partners
with the City of Kelowna to develop a child care plan and
the partnership translates into a strong networking group
of early childhood development advocates, who get together
(on a regular basis I might add) to discuss and support
investing in children initiatives, this is something
to boast about. It's great to hear that the City of Kelowna
continues to be a part of this group - talk about an amazing
- Community Action Toward Children's Health (CATCH), is
another example of partnership and collaboration - another
"opportunity to bring together a similar, yet expanded
crew of stakeholders motivated to better support the healthy
development of young children." The future of your
community - "as it develops over the next few years,
will rely heavily on this kind of umbrella, as it seeks
to leave no child (or organization) behind during
a time of interest in the healthy development of young children."
Whether it's community asset mapping, the development of
school based preschool projects, the CATCH web site, the
Central Okanagan Family Resource Program, or a partnership
with Success by 6®, CATCH is making a difference!
It's no accident that I mentioned these achievements in advance
of talking about early learning and child care - investing
in children. Just as it's no accident your achievements are
so significant. Kelowna's investment in children is also an
investment in Kelowna's prosperity - in B.C.'s prosperity
and in Canada's prosperity. I'm often reminded of two quotes
and one myth when I think about children:
- "The best inheritance a person can give to his children
is a few minutes of his time each day"
(O. A. Battista);
- "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think
whatever else you do matters."
(Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis); and
- "Child rearing myth #1: Labour ends when the baby
is born" (unknown author).
The bottom line is that the earlier we invest in a child's
life, the greater the future dividend. As a business leader
I clearly understand that improving shareholder value tomorrow
has everything to do with investing in children today.
I'm involved in supporting early learning and child care
because it's an economic investment that requires more federal,
provincial and municipal government action. RBC can help influence
public policy and public opinion. After all, the development
of human capital at an early age is key to a prosperous economy.
I'm involved because it's an economic investment that needs
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?
I'm also involved because it's an economic investment that
requires more community action
as I said before: kids
are everybody's business. As a children's advocate (and parent),
the only way to make a difference is to get involved and get
There's no doubt in my mind that business (both large and
small) has a vital role to play in what I refer to as the
collaborative solution on the path to prosperity. Strong,
diverse public sector, community and business leadership needs
to be at the same table when it comes to policy direction
and issues about early learning and child care. And make no
mistake about it - child care is part of the early learning
equation. History has proven time and time again that shifts
or changes in public policy don't usually take off until the
business community rallies behind them. Just remember what
John Kenneth Galbraith said nearly 25 years ago: "The
views of one articulate and affluent banker, businessman,
lawyer, or acolyte economist are the equal of several thousand
welfare mothers in the corridors of political power"
(Toronto Star, February 21, 2005).
It's clear that business has a vested interest in supporting
and influencing the development of sound public policy, as
business has a stake in early learning and child care outcomes,
i.e., education, employment, health, safety and community
engagement. The link between economic development and child
care may be an uncommon theme - but it's time we start "getting
comfortable with the uncomfortable"! This speakers series
is an important step in the right direction
Last November, Winnipeg hosted the Child Care for a Change:
Shaping the 21st Century conference - the first major
policy gathering on early childhood education in over 20 years.
Ken Dryden, Minister of Social Development was there, as was
his Chief of Staff, Sandra Griffin, who I learned is a graduate
of your ECE Diploma Program and advocate for a less fragmented
national program with a focus on better quality and more accessible
childcare. I'm pleased to hear this community is optimistic
about the potential of a National Child Care Strategy and
welcomes such change! Needless to say, this will trigger the
need for even further collaboration with existing early learning
and child care initiatives!
I mention the conference for two reasons - firstly, to say
that it was very well received. I encourage you to check out
the web site: http://www.ccsd.ca/subsites/childcare/
for more information and insight. That's the good news - the
bad news is that business wasn't well represented at the conference,
nor is business taking a lead role in the early learning and
child care debate.
Yet, show me a leading CEO who doesn't believe that cultivating,
attracting and retaining top talent is a strategic priority.
Show me a leading CEO who doesn't get the connection between
corporate responsibility and building business, not to mention
employee commitment. Show me a leading CEO who doesn't equate
the value of business, government and community partnerships
with advancing the economic and social justice agenda. Generating
a high level of business interest in early learning and child
care can help make the difference in making the connections.
Business leaders need to step up to the plate - it's as simple
as that. And they need to hear and discuss research findings
- evidence. The contribution of early learning and child care
to the creation and nurturing of human capital cannot be ignored.
Here's some research at work that shows why investing in children
is good economics and good business:
- "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 costs."
- "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 in society."
- 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. Employers increasingly find that the availability
of good early childhood programs is critical to the recruitment
and retention of parent employees."
- "It's estimated that work-life conflicts cost Canadian
organizations roughly $2.7 billion in lost time due to work
More research can be found on the Voices for Children
web site - www.voicesforchildren.ca.
From Patchwork to Framework - Highlights of a Childcare
Strategy for Canada, produced by the Child Care Advocacy
Association of Canada, is another great piece of material
Facts, figures, and return on investment are the kind of
language that business understands. And the message is simple:
we all bear a burden for failing to provide the "right
start" to our children. We need more business leaders
to view early learning and child care as an economic issue,
not just an education or social issue. It's an important economic
issue because early learning and care enables parents to work,
learn and train while helping to prepare children for a brighter
future. It's a wise investment in 2004 to ensure a competitive
workforce and economy in 2014.
Creating innovative strategies for early learning and child
care contributes to Canada's path to prosperity. As such,
why wouldn't innovative business leaders consider workplaces
that employ on-site/near-site child care centres, child care
subsidies, after-school programs, parental networks, information
and referral services, job sharing, flexible hours or extended
parental leave/family care leaves? Why wouldn't innovative
business leaders encourage investments in targeted children's
initiatives and representation on children's advocacy boards?
And why wouldn't innovative business leaders support partnerships
with governments and communities - and the sharing of best
practices? These are all elements of a sound business strategy
that develops human capital, promotes a healthier workplace
and sustains a competitive advantage.
The underlying goal of RBC's corporate citizenship programs
is prosperity for Canada/Canadians. To achieve this, we support
education and learning, as prosperity depends on well-developed
minds - intelligence, imagination, ingenuity and innovation.
We continue to foster relationships with business, government,
communities and our own employees to help meet our goals.
Making a community difference 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 development. Best practices are
almost always about partnerships.
RBC's After-School Grants Program is all about partnerships
- it's one of the ways we invest in children and help encourage
kids to stay in school. We're currently inviting community-based
providers of after-school programs to apply for grants of
up to $40,000, for the 2005-06 school year. In order to qualify
for a grant, after-school programs should offer structured,
supervised activities in an environment that provides what
RBC has termed the "3Ss": safety, social skills
and self-esteem. Programs should also offer activities such
as computer instruction, sports, literacy tutoring, music
and art lessons, nutrition guidance, and homework-help.
Right now, RBC has ten programs operating in this province.
And Penticton Boys and Girls Club is one of them. I'm especially
pleased that Craig Monley, Diane Entwistle, Lisa Cameron,
and Richelle Leckey, from the Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs
are here today. By the way, the deadline for new applications
is May 2, 2005.
And here's another opportunity for Kelowna to invest in children
week ago today, Social Development Canada announced its Call
for Proposals for the federal government's Understanding
the Early Years (UEY) initiative. "Through community
level research and mapping, UEY provides communities with
high-quality data on their children's readiness to learn and
on family and community factors that influence children's
development. The goal is for communities to better understand
their children's readiness to learn and to develop action
plans to respond to their needs." The deadline for proposals
is April 11th.
The Honourable Margaret McCain (co-author of the Ontario
Early Years Study) and I sent an Open Letter to Minister
Dryden on November 1, applauding his vision for an early learning
and child care system as the next great social initiative.
Among several points, we encouraged the provinces to rationalize
their disconnected early education, child care and parent
support services to provide a stable platform for expansion.
We encouraged the raising of government standards for early
learning and care programs to promote quality and win public
trust. And we also encouraged the development of service plans
with goals and timetables for expansion and quality enhancements
to hold governments accountable. The complete letter is available
on the Atkinson Charitable Foundation web site, www.atkinsonfoundation.ca.
"Today we know that early learning and child care is
a social and economic driver for many interconnected issues:
it's integral to lifelong learning and healthy child development,
and to a sound and prosperous economy; it has significant
implications for women's equality, effective labour strategies,
and ameliorating poverty; and it contributes to flourishing
cities and strengthens social equity. High-quality child care
and early learning strengthens our social foundations - it
benefits children, women, parents, families, and communities
- ultimately, it benefits all Canadians."
And it's evident this room is filled with people who demonstrate
the value of leadership in action and collaboration
when it comes to investing in children and partnership building
in this community. I can't help but better appreciate the
power of the collective voice plus the value of raising the
volume and the bar when I look around the room.
Key stakeholders have come together to endorse this speaker
series. It's supported by the Centre for Population and Health
Services Research and the Early Childhood Education Department
at Okanagan University College, in collaboration with Interior
Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD),
and Community Action Toward Children's Health (CATCH), not
to mention funding from the BC Ministry of Children and Family
Development through the Human Early Learning Partnership and
Success By 6®. Let me tell you, this is an important leadership
and education project.
From Minister Stan Hagan, Minister Linda Reid, Colin Reid,
Angela Cleveland, Margaret Blair-Cook, Barbara Duffy, Myrna
Kalmakoff and Hollie Henderson, to Phil Long, Angela Roy,
Heather Parsons, Carolyn Ludwar, Monica Nelson, Michele Blais,
Terry Beaudry and Bev Guest, all I can say is talk about leadership
in action. Each and every one of you here today is part
of the collective voice. Special thanks to Menno Salverda
for coordinating my visit and also to Linda, Angela Cleveland
and Amy Fulton.
Early child development and care thrives on interdependence
and collaboration in order to work and work well - it requires
leadership at all three levels of government and business
leadership at a high level. It's long overdue for the business
leadership voice to be heard in greater numbers. And on that
note, I'm delighted to see Laurie Weisgarber here from Sun-Rype
Products, as well as Peter MacPherson from Petraroia Langford
Edwards & Rush. If I've missed any other business people,
please speak up. It's time we all get with the program!
On February 11, "Federal, Provincial and Territorial
Ministers Responsible for Social Services met and discussed
a national vision and principles for early learning and child
care systems. Given the urgent need to accelerate development
of quality early learning and child care across the country,
Ministers agreed to meet again once funding is confirmed in
the federal budget", which is being delivered by Finance
Minister Ralph Goodale in the House of Commons this afternoon.
As Mindelle Jacobs said in her Edmonton Sun column (February
13), Caring for kids in an imperfect world, "Not
surprisingly, Dryden's efforts to get the provinces to agree
Friday to a national child-care deal didn't quite come together.
But Ottawa must press ahead, with or without all the provinces.
A partial deal is better than nothing. Stay-at-home parents
can still fight for tax breaks and other family-friendly initiatives.
But we still need a quality day-care system from coast to
coast. It will benefit us all."
"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."
In closing, I leave you with something to think about. John
Ivison, of the National Post, wrote an article titled, "Old
white guy takes the high road" (February 18). As you
may recall, "Ken Dryden was assailed as an old white
guy" in the House of Commons last week by an Opposition
MP. The phrase was used in the context of "Working women
want to make their own choices; we do not need old white guys
telling us what to do" - obviously the debate revolved
around early learning and child care. And then Jane Taber
of the Globe and Mail followed up with her own story on the
same topic, "Pull the Goalie, pull the goalie" (February
19). Believe it or not, the whole thing got me thinking about
Dr. Phil, who in Monday's National Post was characterized
as a "lumbering, middle-aged bald guy with a silly moustache"
by Michelle Cottle for The New Republic. Is it fair to say
that North America is a society that likes to label
face it, many men (including yours truly), could also be characterized
as an "old white guy." What does it all really mean?
And on this note, my final words are appropriately from the
so-called "old white guy", who obviously takes the
high road more often than not. Here's an excerpt from Minister
Ken Dryden's statement in the House Commons last week: "For
economic reasons, for reasons of lifestyle, for reasons of
independence and lots more, in the great majority of cases
both parents, even with young children, are in the work force.
We can feel guilty and we can wish it were not so, but it
is so. All the time we are wishing, our kids are growing up
without the rich, important learning experience that early
learning and child care can offer. Our kids are paying the
price for our wishful thinking. We need to get on with
it, do it right and do it the best we can."
Let's just "get on with it" when it comes
to investing in children - and remember to count business
Thank you...and now let's hear from you!