Liberals would boost child care despite deficit

TheGlobeandMail.com – News/Politics – Ignatieff says he can’t yet put price tag on early-learning programs that would further ‘social justice’
Ottawa – Published on Monday, Feb. 01, 2010.  Last updated on Tuesday, Feb. 02, 2010.   Gloria Galloway

 

Michael Ignatieff won’t let the biggest deficit in Canadian history stop him from promising that a Liberal government would make major investments in child care.

The Liberal Leader told reporters yesterday that there is no better way to increase productivity, social justice and equality across the country than by putting money into programs that give children a head start.

Mr. Ignatieff would not put a price tag on the kind of child-care program he envisions, saying that it would depend on the financial situation at the time his party took power.

But, he said, “we will find the money because it seems to me to be an excellent investment.

“[The Conservatives] are saying you can’t invest in anything that makes this a fairer country because we have a $56-billion deficit,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Well, who created it in the first place? I am not going to allow the deficit discussion to shut down the discussion in this country about social justice.”

Jody Dallaire, a spokeswoman for the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, praised the Liberal Leader’s commitment.

“I think Mr. Ignatieff realizes not only the social benefits of investing in early learning and child care, but that investing in child care is also good for the economy,” Ms. Dallaire said. “It’s not an expense; it’s actually an investment.”

But Kevin Gaudet, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said politicians who make announcements of future spending must tell Canadians how much those plans cost and where the money will come from.

Mr. Gaudet used similar words last week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a 10-year commitment of assistance to Haiti and said he would push the G8 group of wealthy countries to take up the cause of maternal and infant health care. Neither of those promises came with dollar figures attached.

“I met with senior [Prime Minister’s Office] officials two or three weeks ago and they were suggesting that, according to their polling data, people, quote, ‘aren’t there yet’ on the deficit issue. And by ‘there,’ they mean on my side of it [in favour of spending reduction],” Mr. Gaudet said.

Politicians are driven by polls, he said. “So, if what the PMO officials suggested is true, then politicians, I fear, might be willing to promise us the moon because they don’t seem to think that people care about the fact that we have to pay it off some day.”

In fact, a recent poll conducted by Ipsos Reid suggested that 53 per cent of Canadians believe the federal government must run a deficit of at least $30-billion to $40-billion to “stimulate the economy and get us out of this recession.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ignatieff is not the only politician to promote new spending on Canadian children, even as budgets run deeply into the red. The Ontario government recently announced that it was moving ahead with its plans to offer full-day kindergarten despite the province’s $25-billion deficit.

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