It was, as we say here, a sight for sore eyes: Prime Minister Paul Martin, story book in hand, sitting on the floor with the kids in the Montessori daycare centre in the tiny crossroads community of Poole’s Corner, P.E.I.
He had to do it, of course. Steven Harper had just announced in New Brunswick that the Conservatives would provide parents with $1,200 a year for each child six years of age and under. Things like that could lead to parents making their own child care arrangements – even hiring relatives. So hard for government to regulate.
N.B. Premier Bernard Lord fully endorsed Harper’s plan. Reminded by reporters that it would cost his government more for his own just-announced pre-Kindergarten program, he responded, “I understand that. I’m not here for the government. I’m here for the people. I’m here for the parents and I’m here for the children.”
Both Harper and Lord know that only 13 per cent of Canadian families consider daycare the best option.
But to Paul Martin, federally funded daycare regulated according to national standards is imperative. So, of course, he had to hie himself to Poole’s Corner, sit on the floor among preschoolers for 10 minutes, read them a story and talk to the media – a busload just “happened” to track him down.
You have to forgive the kids. With the cameras and media and all, they were pretty excited, though most hadn’t a clue who Paul Martin was. One even thought the escorting Mountie was Paul Martin.
The children thought he was a friend coming to play with them. They didn’t realize they were being used as backdrop for their “friend” to confirm the Liberal promise to spend more than $6 billion in a national day-care program.
“We are investing in the Canadians of tomorrow in a progressive social policy,” Martin said, and stressed the importance of “the same level of service from coast to coast,” of national standards, of regulated daycare. (How is that different from state-controlled child care?)
When Martin was leaving, he received a very big thank you card signed by every student. Such smart little tykes, to just instinctively think of doing that.
“Who has the best daycare plan?” the reporters asked the children, who would, of course, have given the issues a great deal of thought. “Paul Maahtin,” they chorused. “Who would make the best prime minister?” “Paul Maahtin”. “Who are you going to vote for?” “Paul Maahtin.”
”They seem to have been pre-programmed …” remarked Paul Wells of Maclean’s magazine in his web log. Would that become “a national standard?”
The Globe and Mail said, “Mr. Martin clearly likes to spend time with children. It was a touching performance.”
It could have been equally touching in any Charlottetown daycare, but this one just happened to be in the riding of Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay, who voted against same-sex “marriage.” He also invited Scott Brison to speak at his nomination meeting – the same Scott Brison who says he plans to “marry” his same-sex lover.
The plot thickens further, when you realize that Canadian unions have a vested interest in daycare, pushing aggressively for only publicly controlled, non-profit centres. In October, three national unions sponsored an Australian daycare activist on a speaking tour of Canada to lobby in support of government-operated child care centres.
Why? To add thousands of child care workers to the union rolls, an objective that ignores the wishes and best interests of Canadian families, but promotes happier and wealthier labour unions, says the REAL Women publication Reality (www.realwomenca.com, Nov/Dec issue).
Rheo Rochon is an executive member of P.E.I.’s Early Childhood Education Association and the owner/operator of the Montessori daycare at Poole’s Corner.
In his view, the Conservatives are offering only a one-time funding rebate, but the Liberal promise will mean money for daycare centres and higher wages for the workers.
As for the children’s reactions to having the prime minister come to visit them, Rochon said, “They trust us as educators. So, of course, they trust anyone we bring in to talk to them.”
Exactly. And you can bet a “national standard” on acceptable speakers would not include Stephen Harper, Angelina Steenstra, Bev Hadland, Alex Schadenberg, Gwen Landolt or Jim Hughes.