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Deals, dollars and day cares [CA-NB]

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New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Publication Date: 
31 Jan 2006

See text below.


Prime Minister designate Stephen Harper and Premier Bernard Lord have pushed for greater accountability from the federal government and more respect for the provinces. So why do both men seem prepared to give Ottawa the power to break negotiated agreements?

Mr. Harper says he will abandon the previous government's funding deals for day care. To do so would be nothing less than revolutionary - and the proposal ought to concern even those, like Mr. Lord, who favour a different way of delivering child care.

If the federal government can tear up five-year agreements that have been negotiated province by province, no agreement New Brunswick signs with Mr. Harper or any future prime minister can have any value.

If Mr. Harper wants to roll back existing day-care agreements to pay for a new child care strategy, he'll have to invite the provinces to renegotiate. Where provinces are unwilling to reopen the agreements, the new prime minister may be out of luck - just as Paul Martin was when he tried to foist day-care agreements on provinces that wanted to hold out for something different.

Having signed a day-care agreement at the eleventh hour, it's understandable the premier might be interested in renegotiating how the money will be spent. Still, it's surprising to read Family and Community Services Minister Joan MacAlpine-Stiles' statement that there's nothing to worry about if the existing, $110-million agreement is torn up.

If the premier and his cabinet ministers have a new strategy for early childhood education, parents would like to know what it is. How will the first year's federal day-care funding be spent? Is the province still planning on offering a pre-kindergarten program, and will any of the money allocated for day care be spent on developing it? Will the funding simply be issued to parents as a child-care allowance?

Before any changes are introduced, the federal government must come to the negotiating table - and Premier Lord must reveal what his government's intentions for child care are, in detail.

- reprinted from the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

Entered Date: 
3 Feb 2006
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