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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2006

Harper: Child Care Plan Sidesteps Academics & Researchers

Loretta Czernis
During a roundtable meeting last month with parents and children in Burnaby, British Columbia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the following of his promise of government support on child care:

“Do the opposition parties support giving parents $1,200 per child, per year or do they prefer the status quo, which is zero? Our new approach requires no federal-provincial negotiations, no funding for academics, researchers or special interest groups, and it cuts out the political and bureaucratic middlemen. It will provide real support and direct payment, as soon as Parliament approves it.”

I assume Harper has been quoted accurately, since I found this information in a posting on the Conservative Party of Canada’s web site. But what can he possibly mean?

How did academics get dragged into a defence for his child care payment scheme? Does he think academic research on children and childrearing is useless and/or corrupt? Does he think of academics as selfish and mercenary? Does he think we contribute nothing to meaningful national debate?

Unfortunately, having read the quote in amazement a number of times, I have to accept that he believes the worst about academics. Our research gets in his way. It slows down the progress he wishes to make. Perhaps he also resents academics because we know “progress” isn’t always good. It depends where we are being led and why.

Staying within the frame of the child care example, Harper calls the $1,200 payment a “universal child care plan.” This allowance gives parents $23 per week, per child under the age of six. Will parents be able to rapidly place their children in day care for this amount? There is nothing in the proposed legislation to inhibit daycare centres from raising their prices, or from lowering their standards. We don’t know who did the “research” that persuaded Harper to come up with the $1,200 figure. All we know is he’s sticking by the dollar amount, and his strategy, which is sound because it excludes unsavoury types like academics and other middlemen.

On April 20 the prime minister told the Montreal Board of Trade, “The previous government consulted with hundreds of experts to design its one-size-fits-all plan. We preferred to put our trust in millions of experts. And these experts go by the name of Mom and Dad.”

It would be worth remembering of how he thinks of us the next time you hear him speak. To whom is he speaking? We now know he’s not speaking to post-secondary educators and researchers.