What do we stand for? Our Kids and Our Future as a Society

March 15, 2008

Angie asked me to be more clear about what we stand for. We stand for our children and we stand for making their chance at being all that they can be be our priority. We have asked the Government to take a time out and hold off piecemeal change. We have asked them to look at the complete picture that is our children – how they are doing and what kind of result we need and why.

We have said that we will only have trouble and even tragedy if we continue to try and accommodate the competing and irreconcilable interests of the people who earn their living in the sector. We are saying that if we put what our children and our society needs first – then we can fit the suppliers into that picture.

I am sure that I may be upsetting you as I make these statements – so please look at the current reality: please have a look at Teresa Wright’s excellent piece in the Guardian today and ask yourself – how would any person reconcile the competing needs of the stakeholders – the owners, the ECE’s and the Teachers?

  • A small inner group of daycare owners and kindergarten who are worried about new competition or worse – universal Kindergarten – that would threaten their living.
  • ECE’s who are worried that Teachers will take their jobs
  • Teachers who are worried about declining enrollment and see Kindergarten as an opportunity to protect their jobs

This is only human – the livelihoods and the place in society that all hold dear are threatened by any change.

For each of these parties to WIN – means a loss for the others. More daycares and kindergartens of a higher quality than the existing ones, threaten the establishment. So the needs for parents to find more quality and more choice in blocked.

This need to protect the current owners is behind the existence of the Board and behind the attempt to change the act to give the board discretion. It is not about qulaity but protection.

Because we have the system we have, we don’t have quality care available to all children and we don’t even talk about them. Because our system is not universal – very large numbers of children have no access to quality care of any kind – their interests are never given voice.

The people who have the voice are those that have a stake. Owners, ECE’s and Teachers circle each other like packs of wild animals staking out their territory.

Where in all of this bitter life and death contest are the interests of children?

If we stay at this level of debate – the interests cannot be reconciled and the certain losers will be our kids and hence all of us.

For there is another layer of context fro all of this. We will have very few young when we are old. PEI will have amongst the least. Currently about 70% of the young who emerge from high school have neither the skills or the wherewithal to cope in society. We face a terrible crisis. Unless we can shift this so that many more can cope, can work, can be relied on to act as fully fledged adults and citizens – we are doomed.

The only place that we have a hope in acting that might give us a chance is in the early years – before our kids get to school. This is the time of greatest leverage where lifetime trajectories are set.

So if we cannot do a much much better job here soon, it’s all over folks.

No one and no interest group can put their immediate needs ahead of this – this being all our future.

So when we say that we stand for all out kids – we also mean that we stand for having a future here on PEI.

Stepping back and looking at what the real potential is and looking at how many are applying best practices in other places is our only chance


Trust – The Key to Power & Government

March 7, 2008

What happens to a government that can not be trusted? At best, they become immobilized at worst…..

Many Islanders wonder about what went on when the Kindergarten decision was made. Many fear conflict of interest in the process to change the Child Care facilities Act – all the actions of the department so far suggest that it is not being straight with us.

So in an attempt to regain trust, our co chairs wrote last week to Sarah Henry in the department of Social Services asking her to  give the public the information about what is going on in child care that would be expected to be already well tabulated and understood to suggest any such changes.

Our co chairs asked for this information to be ready by today.  The short deadline was determined by:

  1. The government’s own fast track schedule for changing the act
  2. If the department had done the required research to consider any changes, all that we asked for should be ready and pose no problem.

Well it’s Friday and we are looking forward to getting our reply today. Email will work just fine

Trust and Full Disclosure

February 28, 2008

So here then is a test of good intentions and of trust. April Ennis and Jane Boyd, our co chairs have written to Sarah Henry, who has the file, and asked her for the following information. The full text of the letter dated Feb 28 is attached in pdf form below.

We have asked Sarah Henry to reply by March 7th – the tight deadline is driven by the department’s own tight deadline.

We are asking for the information that any valid and authentic process of consultation would have offered up as a matter of being professional. An analysis based on such information would have been given to every MLA  after the Minister would have had a thorough briefing prior.

This is what a professional public servant would think is routine.

Here is a summary of the questions:

In February 15, 2007 a press release issued from the Premier’s Office, indicated the following:

  • There are approximately 8500 children between the ages of 0-5. There are 4800 licensed child care spaces on PEI.
  • 82% of the child care spaces are occupied. This would indicate that 3936 children between the age of 0-5 are in licensed childcare programs.
  • 80% of mothers with children aged 0-5 are in the labour force. That would indicate that approx 6800 are in need of child care services.

Based on the above please clarify the following points for us:

Where are the approximately 2000 children (6800-4800) aged 0-5 being supported if 80% of mothers with children ages 0-5 are in the workforce? Is unlicensed child care fulfilling this need? How many unlicensed child care spaces are currently on PEI?

2. During a recent CBC interview, Kathy Jones stated that “there are 67% presently of our early childhood centres that are operating below their license capacity”.

  • If 82% of the child care spaces on PEI were occupied as of February 15, 2007, what percentage of child care space spaces are currently occupied? How many spaces are unoccupied at the moment?  How and why have these numbers changed over the past year?
  • If there are 67% of centres who are operating below capacity, how many children are on waiting lists at the 33% of child care centres that are full? Please provide us with details how the 67% was determined.

3. During the February 27, 2008 public consultation meeting you made reference to “increasing good outcomes for children” on PEI. How are these outcomes currently being measured? What time period are the children monitored for ongoing development? Please provide us with information on both the tools that are being used to measure these outcomes and a copy of the most recent report regarding the findings of this measurement.

4. At the February 27, 2008 public consultation, there was reference made to the “phase(s)” of the consultation process. Can you please provide a thorough explanation and timeline of each phase of theChild Care Facilities Act and Regulations consultation process?

5. Is the consultation process (as of February 27, 2008) the same as what it was at the onset of the initial consultation as identified in the February 25, 2008 memorandum from the Department of Social Services and Seniors. If not, why and how has it changed?

6. What is the legislative procedure for the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations to be amended during the sitting of the House?

7. Is it still the intention of government to table the proposed amendments during the upcoming spring sitting of house? If so, is there sufficient time to give the consultation process a fair chance?  Please provide us with a specific date as to when you expect the
proposed amendments to be tabled.

8. What amendments of the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations have been proposed to date by your Department? What is the reasoning and research behind each of the proposed amendments?

9. At the February 27, 2008 consultation meeting you quickly showed a slide which gave an overview of which Provinces have “shall” and “may” in the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations regarding the issuing of licenses.  We request a complete copy of the benchmarking research that has been done regarding this issue by your Department.

10.We request a detailed breakdown of the number of infant spaces available across the province.

11.We request a complete copy of the information/feedback that has been gathered during the public consultation process, including the HRA online survey.

12.We would like a complete list of each board member’s affiliation’s with respect to child care (for example, ELOPEI, owner/operator, etc). We also request a copy of the policy or procedure the board has in place regarding conflict of interest procedures.

13.Are the minutes of the child care facilities board public information? If so, we request the minutes of each meeting dating back to January 1, 2007, as well as any future meetings that take place.

Letter to Sarah Henry asking for full disclosure dated Feb 28 expecting a reply by March 7

Consultation and Trust

February 28, 2008

Surely the key to politics is to establish and to keep Trust – if people can trust you – you will get re-elected.

Actions by bureaucrats are threatening the Trust that Islanders have in their elected government.

The loss of trust had begun last fall when there was an attempt to pass changes to the act with no public consultation at all.  The current consultation was offered to Islanders in recognition that there was a trust issue.

I went to the new consultation meeting last night hoping to see that the officials would be working hard to re-establish trust. The bottom line is that they did not acknowledge that they had lost it and worked diligently to erode it further.

Here is what I experienced.

About 80 people turned up and the Holiday Inn Express. This meeting took place because of the protest at the original planned process for consultation. Many had felt betrayed by a process that offered only a week’s notice and a time for Charlottetown parents in the afternoon during working hours and the end of school. The large numbers attending might give you a sense of the feeling in the room.

How right we were to feel mistrustful was made clear early in the meeting last night when were told that the Island-wide consultation had met with 30 people! Only about 30 people had also gone on line and answered the questionnaire.

Many of us came to the meeting last night hoping that we could deal with the most important trust issue –  a difference in the core assumptions between the department and many parents about how quality is achieved.

In addition many of us had fears that control would be given to a body that had a conflict of interest.

We needed to have these points well exposed and dealt with last night to gain any trust back.

The difference in core assumptions is this:

The department has publicly stated that daycare quality was threatened because there were too many vacancies in the current system. Their stated public position was that they could ensure quality by limiting the number of new licenses.

Here is the key sheet used in the prior meetings:

This was the issue – is this a valid assumption? Many parents do not accept the logic of this. They believe that quality is found in choice.

Worse – We feared a conflict of interest. Here are the reasons for this fear.

When the act was attempted to be changed in the fall – the critical change was one word. Under the current act, if you as an operator meet the standards for being given a license you “Shall” be given a license.  The proposed change took out “Shall” and put in the word “May”.

What this means is that the people who have the authority to grant the license now have total discretion bounded by no limits. So you can meet the needs of the regulations and be refused. No reasons need to be given. The decision maker was being given a blank cheque.

The blank cheque was going to be given to whom?  To a Board. Why such a board and who is on it? No other province has such a body. In other provinces, the authority to grant or not grant a license is given by a person who is directly accountable to the minister. If you have a problem, you have recourse to the minister.

Key people on this board are owners of existing centres and leaders of the staffing association. If the act had passed in the fall – this body that is strongly influenced by a group of operators and staff –  would have had complete discretion.

These are the issues that I had hoped would be addressed full on last night. We expected a fully transparent debate about the difference in assumptions and about the conflict of interest.

Instead of full disclosure and a debate, we were treated like 6 years olds!

There was a very opaque context setting presentation full of platitudes about partnership and the need for quality and the fears for safety of children. There was a slide that showed that all but 3 provinces had discretion given to licensing. The object of the presentation was to give us the sense that there was some thing wrong with the act and that there were big but unstated risks if we did not change it.

What these risks were and what was proposed to be changed was not described.

Then we were asked to talk only about the questions that they wanted us to talk about. We were given a few forms to fill out and told to discuss these in small groups. The entire process was designed to control the meeting and to not empower the people in the room. I felt as if I was back in kindergarten. It was a shameful and degrading experience. 80 people had been muzzled.

Worse, they had taken the key issue off the table. The heading that you see above was replaced with an anodyne question about what do you think is important in granting a license. Any direct reference to the spaces and control issues had been removed. Debate was replaced by Cumbya.

What is going on? It all feels very bad. Every step of the way so far has degraded trust.

  • First of all legislation that has huge impact on families and on our society is sneaked into the legislature.
  • When smoked out a consultation is promised. This process is bogus and involves only 30 people mainly bureaucrats.
  • A better process is then offered and it too is bogus and is designed to limit debate and offers no disclosure.

It gets worse.

My discussions with MLA’s tells me that they too are in the dark. Here we have a public process of consultation about a topic that has the potential to give PEI the chance to have the best human potential possible or the opposite. The future of our society depends on how well we do in helping kids from 0-6.  There is a major public fear about the process and the MLA’s have not been briefed.

How can you have public consultations, as we are having now, and leave out the MLA’s who are not then equipped to consult with the people directly?  I think our MLA’s are not being served.

I end with where I began with the issue of Trust.

Trust is hard to win and it is easy to lose. In truth the real reason to have any consultation is to develop trust.

Trust is the real product: for not all ideas will make it into the end product. But we can all accept what happens, if we feel that those that we trust to run the day to day operations of government have the interests of our community truly in their heart.

In this case – this is not so. By their actions they are judged.

Only a legitimate and authentic process can regain the trust that has been lost.

  • The core assumptions have to be put on the table.
  • The reality of quality has to be addressed.
  • Any conflict of interest has to be exposed and removed

The Guardian in its editorial yesterday questioned the effectiveness of all the many consultations that are under way right now.  The reputation of the government is on the line.

What will be the result if Islanders feel that the officials are taking us all for granted?