Charlottetown. An announcement this spring that two local high schools were to undergo extensive renovations was recognized by local promoters of institutional day care as a golden opportunity.

Chief among them was Dianne Porter, immediate past Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on Status of Women, a longtime daycare advocate who was active for years on the executive of the Canadian Child Care Federation.  She was supported by local childcare advocacy groups, the Status of Women, and all its associated groups.

Manipulation

Then with a carefully staged press release, they launched a well-integrated campaign, arguing the case almost entirely on the basis of compassion and emotion.

Using familiar strategies, they presented individual stories as if there was an unavoidable cause-effect relationship between the lack of day care in schools and the poverty frequently experienced by single mothers.  With CBC firmly on side, and only REAL Women/PEI voicing any concern, they quickly rallied vocal supporters.

They ignored the impact on school staffing and programs.  They disregarded suggestions that simpler and more efficient ways already exist for young mothers to achieve their high school credentials.  They also acted as if many existing arrangements, programs and adaptations of programs to help such girls did not exist.

They were particularly quick to brush aside the suggestion that long term institutional say care is far from the best way to provide for the needs of infants, who in any event should not be regarded as resource material for a school program.

Opposition

Some weeks into the campaign, Education Minister Paul Connolly stated firmly that his responsibility is simply to provide curriculum, programming and materials for schools.  Determining the allotment of space is the responsibility of the local school board, he said.

In late summer, the school board said that since they were already hard pressed to house the current student body, they could not provide space for such a project.

This was not well received by either the CBC or the day care lobbyists who had the day care lobbyists who had used the interval to polish up their case.  They changed their arguments.  The stated goal is no longer to help young mothers become self sufficient as quickly as possible, but to enable them to interact with their peers in a normal teen environment knowing that their children are well looked after.

The scope of the proposed program had also expanded.  It would now provide services for the staff and residents of the surrounding communities, as well as for the teen mothers.  The infants would be the subject material for existing and new child care programs in the high school curriculum.

The unrelenting campaign has been so successful in getting its largely uncontested messages before the public that other high schools are now considering establishing day care in their facilities.