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child care

Volunteerism – get involved, damn it!

I have written before about volunteerism and what is means to me. From volunteering at one’s school to participating in our civic processes, volunteering is a way to “give back” (I’m not particularly fond of that term) to the community and to gain a certain measure of self-satisfaction in the process.

I have given up a lot of my free time over my adult life to a number of organisations, and I have learned much about myself and others by doing so. The type of folks who volunteer alongside me are, for the most part, the type of folks with whom I like to spend time, chat and share experiences. They are dedicated, hard-working and truly believe that what they are doing is valuable and necessary. And they are correct.

A lot of Canadians volunteer a LOT of hours in a year. Check it out:


That’s 154 hours, on average, for that 43.6% of the population that engage in volunteer activities. Put another way, that’s equal to just about 4 full 40 hour work weeks… and not paid a dime for any of them! Wow!

But you say that this is misleading because this includes all Canadians, regardless of whether they are holding down jobs outside the home or not. After all, many stay-at-home Moms and Dads perform daytime duties at their kids’ schools… like running milk programs, pizza days, helping in the class, etc. But no – check out this other graphic:

So it turns out that those with jobs actually volunteer more, not less than the population as a whole. Pretty incredible, eh?

Why the rant today about all this?

Well, last night was my last AGM of the childcare services not-for-profit that I have been involved with for about 8 years. It has been a rewarding experience which has allowed me to have a small measure of influence over the childcare experiences of my two youngest kids. Some of my fellow Board members have been able soldiers (being Ottawa, we’ve even had REAL soldiers!) who have guided the organisation through some pretty rough waters at time. The long-time (former as of last year) President (let’s call him “Kevin”) was and is one of the hardest working volunteers that I have ever worked with and is a true credit to his community. I hope he knows that. And I’m certain that the current President will be equally up to the task in the coming months and year.

But I’ll miss this particular unpaid gig. My kids have “graduated” from that organisation now and I’m finding myself pretty stretched for time since taking on a bigger role at my Community Association. Still, I do not regret a moment of the many hours that I devoted to the organisation.

If you haven’t already joined the millions of Canadians who give up part of their free time to give meaningfully to their community, then you might want to think about it. You too won’t regret a moment of it.


More on the Drummond Report…

As some of you know, I have a deep interest in and am involved with Ottawa’s childcare community. One of the working assumptions we have had in our forward planning discussions has been that Full Day Kindergarten would be fully implemented by 2014 / 2015.

But now, I’m betting that the Government will delay implementation of FDK in the upcoming Budget as a compromise solution… thus throwing some of our working assumptions out the proverbial window!

Interesting times…

For the record, I really like his health care recommendations. With a 40% slice of the provincial budget pie, this is the area that needs to be scrutinized and adjusted… but carefully and using evidence-based reasoning.

Drummond report highlights

Posted: Feb 15, 2012 2:49 PM ET

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2012 5:43 PM ET

Highlights of recommendations of the Drummond report on reforming Ontario’s public services:

  • The Ontario government must implement all 362 recommended reforms to restrain program spending growth enough to achieve balance by 2017-18.
  • Cap growth of health-care spending at 2.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Increase the use of home-based care.
  • Make the portion of pharmaceutical costs paid for by seniors rise more sharply as income increases.
  • No increase in total compensation for Ontario’s doctors, the best paid in the country.
  • Consider expanding health coverage to include pharmaceuticals, long-term care and aspects of mental health care.
  • Cap growth in primary and secondary education spending at one per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Cap growth in post-secondary education spending (excluding training) at 1.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Put “strong pressure” on the federal government to fund on-reserve First Nations education equal to per-student provincial funding for elementary and secondary education. Failing that, the province itself should step up to provide that funding.
  • Cancel the full-day kindergarten program, or delay full implementation from 2014-15 to 2017-18.
  • Increase the average class size from 22 to 24 in Grades 9 to 12 and from 24.5 to 26 in Grades 4 to 8.
  • Set the cap in class size at 23 in primary grades and eliminate the other requirement that 90 per cent of classes must be 20 or fewer.
  • Reject further employer rate increases to the Teachers’ Pension Plan beyond the current rate.
  • Maintain the existing tuition framework, which allows annual tuition increases of five per cent and consider eliminating a newly minted 30-per-cent tuition rebate.
  • Cap growth in social services spending at 0.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Decrease program spending in all other areas by 2.4 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Higher water bills to recover the full cost of water and wastewater services.
  • Begin charging for parking at GO Transit parking lots.
  • Eliminate the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit “as quickly as possible.”
  • Consider having security providers take over police officers’ “non-core” duties.
  • Negotiate the transfer of responsibility for incarceration for sentences longer than six months to the federal government, up from the current two years.
  • Close one of the two casinos in Niagara Falls and one of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s two head offices.
  • Use licence and registration suspensions as a tool to help collect some Provincial Offences Act fines, allow fines to be added to the offender’s property tax bill and offset tax refunds against such unpaid fines.


Using technology to…

…educate kids and parents about how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and help to find children who have gone missing.

Did you know that each year around 50,000 kids go missing in Canada? Crazy!

This is a great initiative – and long overdue! 

Operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection,’s primary functions include:

  • Assisting in the location of missing children
  • Providing educational materials to help prevent children from going missing
  • Offering information and a response centre on missing children
  • Coordinating efforts to assist stakeholders in the delivery of missing children services

This is a charitable organization that deserves your support. Each pay cheque, I give a not-insignificant sum to Kid’s Help Phone and Child Find as part of the Government of Canada’s United Way drive. I’ll be adding this group to my list when the United Way coordinator makes her way to my cube.


Friday miscellany – Harper Dry edition

So the Harperites have deemed it proper to once again “re-brand” something… this time, the nation’s name. Yup, no longer is the government of the land to be referred to as, well, the government of  “Canada”, but rather as “The Harper Government” (insert threatening music here).

I’m not making this up.

But I for one welcome this news! I see this as a major step forward for honest and open government! Gone are the days where the ReformCons masqueraded as the Government of Canada, because, face it –  they have never actually represented the majority of those of us north of the 49th.

While at this re-branding gig, might I suggest that we also consider the following:

  • Harper Dry, the champagne of kool aid
  • Harper Tire: the new money has a different image of Dear Leader for every denomination !
  • The Royal Bank of Harper: just returning the favours done for the banks over the past 5 years.
  • Harper’s Football League- maybe he will write a book about our sport now!


James Travers passed away yesterday.

Look, we bloggers are nothing more than rank amateurs who stoop to (in the words of a journalist friend) give words away for free. Mr. Travers was a man whose work was worth it’s weight in gold.

I’ll miss his columns and send out my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.


I attended a very informative evening the other night on the future of early childhood education in Ottawa

The forum, entitled The future of public and non-profit childcare in Ottawa was lead by a panel representing some key players in our childcare network. One of the panelists was former OCDSB Chair, Cathy Curry. Theresa Kavanagh was also in the crowd of about 200ish attendees.

It is good to see public board Trustees engaging in this conversation. But what is really needed right now is leadership at the City level and a better coordinated strategy among the parents who serve on Boards of Directors. As early learning kicks into full gear in this province, there are going to have to be some innovative thinkers taking the helm.


OC Transpo was crawling along through the downtown on Monday at a pace that was slow even for them. A few Tweets when hither and yon and it turns out that the delay was due to downtown garbage pick-up.


Is there not a way that the City, OC Transpo and the firms contracted to do the downtown commercial garbage collection can work together so that pick up can take p^lace OUTSIDE the rush hours periods? It cannot be THAT tough to coordinate this, can it?


The latest in the Harperite follies:

OdaGate – faded away as Canadians moved to the next scandal:

The Conservatives have been in defensive mode since last week, when it was revealed that four senior members of the party, including two senators who sit in caucus, were charged by Elections Canada in connection with allegations that the Tories broke their advertising spending limits in the 2006 election.

Oh. That’s already old news too because now we see this:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has apologized following revelations Thursday that his office used government resources to raise money for the Conservative party.

The allegations were raised by the New Democrats after they obtained a letter, sent Thursday by Kenney’s office on parliamentary letterhead, that was seeking $200,000 in donations to support a Tory strategy targeting “very ethnic” ridings.

James Kenney!!! – this couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. And he should resign. But he won’t. The ReformCons are once again declaring themselves above the law!


CHEO psychologists: next Tuesday at Canterbury HS – should be an informative evening

CHEO Psychologists Present:

An Evening of Information

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm Canterbury High School Auditorium

Join your friends and neighbours for an exciting evening of presentations and information sharing by psychologists from CHEO.  Each presentation will be offered at 7 pm and 8 pm.

  • Dr. Jenny Demark – “Why Won’t My Child Do As I Say?”, The ABCs of Improving Cooperation and Compliance
  • Mr. Craig Ross & Ms. Alice Rubin-Vaughn – Online Social Networking
  • Dr. Clarissa Bush – Capacity Concerns for Parents of Children Reaching 18
  • Dr. Phil Ritchie & Ms. Amber Johnston – Risky Business: Keeping Your Adolescent Safe
  • Dr. Simone Kortstee – The Importance of Sleep for Children and Adolescents
  • Dr. Annick Bucholz – Obesity in Children and Adolescents
  • Dr. Julie Perkins & Dr. Laurie Clark – Body Image in Children and Adolescents
  • Dr. Christine Beauregard & Dr. Peter Anderson – Concussion 101

This Event will be held at Canterbury High School

900 Canterbury Ave

Ottawa, Ontario, K1G 3A7

To ensure your spot, please register by email at


McGuinty backs down… again…

It is clear that leadership at Queen’s Park means caving to special interests whenever the going gets tough.


Sex Ed opponents claim victory in Ontario

Liberals hear consumers’ cry, vow to retool eco-fee

Ontario Ombudsman: Province used ‘dubious’ powers for Toronto G20

Caving to religious groups, anti-tax advocates and Stephen Harper – in that order.

And now they have backtracked on their plan to provide single provider before and after care in Ontario’s school system. Now, instead of having on-site before and after care provided through the local School Board, third party operators will now have the opportunity to provide these services.

But Trashy, you say, isn’t this a GOOD thing? I mean, you’re involved with a local not-for-profit daycare, won’t this mean more business for you.

No, not at all. This latest flip flop is the result of the Ontario Liberals caving to a few very large daycare operators. Check out this headline from the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Locals applaud daycare decision

Yay for the locals!

But wait… what provider is quoted in the story?

The Y is heavily involved.

“We’re probably the largest provider in Grey and Bruce of before-and after-school care. We have 18 programs within the Bluewater school board and the Catholic school board and we serve probably in the neighbourhood of 600 to 700 children and families,” Dennis Morrison, centre manager for the Family Y, said.

Big time operator, the YMCA.

And the School Boards? They didn’t like the idea of seamless all-day early learning one bit.

“It was not a business we wanted to go into,” Marnie Coke, the superintendent of elementary education with the Bluewater District School Board, said Thursday.

See, here’s the problem with having before and after care provided separately from the Board:

The proposed amendment announced by the premier institutionalizes the divide between education and care and the split in the child’s day. It undermines the professionalism of Early Childhood Educators who bring the all-important play-based learning to children’s programming, relegating them to part-time workers whether employed in kindergarten classroom or after school child care.  The perennial problem of finding and keeping qualified ECEs who are willing or able to work split shifts will be exacerbated, compromising program quality.

For large institutional providers like the Y, it’s not a big concern since they have an enormous staff pool from which to select. Smaller, not-for-profit Centres have nowhere near as much flexibility and it will be difficult to attract and retain staff with promises of split shifts and few paid hours.

I, and others, have talked about the need for a greater education community. If School Boards are truly concerned about the quality of preparation for the school-years – be it at the child’s home, a for-profit institutional daycare or one of the smaller not-for-profits, then Boards everywhere in Ontario should build a better partnership with all pre-school care providers. Don’t freeze them out – but rather open a dialogue with the broader community. And do it soon! Are you listening, OCDSB?

From Randall Denley:

Kim Hiscott is the executive director of Andrew Fleck Child Care Centres. She says McGuinty’s plan might not be viable because it leaves organizations like hers with unattractive pieces of work at the beginning and end of the school day.

It would be difficult to attract early-childhood educators (ECEs) to work a split shift with less than full-time hours, Hiscott says.

The problem will be made worse by an impending shortage of ECEs, caused by school board hiring.

The grand plan McGuinty originally endorsed called for a seamless day for children with an ECE there for a full day starting about 7:30, then kindergarten classes and another ECE to work until the parents pick the children up, as late as 5:45.

The modified plan will allow boards to offer kindergarten only and foist the unattractive part-time work off on the non-profit centres.

From OISE – a good summary:

The province is responding to the self-interest of a few large child care
operators and to the fears of a small percentage of parents who already have their child care needs met.  Requiring school boards to offer affordable early learning and care was designed to help the 80% of families who have no access to child care.

Dr. Pascal’s plan was sound but the Liberals in Ontario messed up the planning, administration and delivery of this good idea. Now, in typical fashion, they are making an already ad situation even worse.

Under split delivery of before and after care, the following problems will remain:

  • We have a  fragmented patchwork of programs – and this is stressful for children, parents and those in the child care industry;
  • The inefficiencies and higher costs to taxpayers will continue and the childcare fee savings the premier promised parents during the last election will not materialize.
  • Wait lists? Get used to them. Longer ones too!


We need political leadership and champions for universally accessible, fully integrated early learning.  We need leaders in Queen’s Park who will not cave to self-interest groups less than six months after passing their own legislation. The child care issue is just the next in a long line of caving.

If you agree, let the Premier know: or call (416) 325-1941


French Immersion and the challenge of maintaining English programs

I read with some interest Matthew Pearson’s article in the Citizen yesterday on how the demand for French language education is now outstripping that for English education in the OCDSB.

The Ottawa Parents Education Network asked this question of Trustee candidates during the past election:

11. It can be a challenge to meet the demand for French Immersion while maintaining a strong, viable English program. How important do you think it is for the Board to respond to the ever-increasing demand for French Immersion in this region?

My answer:

It is important.

The OCDSB is home to some of the highest concentrations of francophone communities in Canada, outside Quebec. The City is also home to tens of thousands of public servants – many of whom are bilingual. As such,  day to day life requires a population that is bilingual to as great an extent as is possible. French Immersion is key.

But should the call for augmented and expended French Immersion programs be instituted to the detriment of other core English programs?

I am honestly not sure.

Not every student is well-suited to French Immersion programs and require a unilingual education in their mother tongue in order to attain their educational objectives.

We also must keep in mind the needs of the newcomer populations who require ESL or FSL training in order to integrate into and participate in their new communities.

There is lots of need for all types of education. while French Immersion is a priority, I am not certain that it should be an over-riding priority.

Saying this, I suggest that the Board acts on this quickly as population trends for the region necessitate fast action.

What kind of fast action?

First, as much sense as a unified education system for the province makes sense in almost every way imaginable, the truth is that is some time down the road. Until public Boards of education and the people of Ontario turn up the heat on Queen’s Park, we will have to live with the needless duplication of a parallel faith-based system.

So failing that kind of change, the Board must, as part of its strategic planning exercise that it is currently undertaking, broaden the scope of the exercise to review the viability of English language education in the City’s schools. I really do not think that the Board can afford to offer Early Immersion in all of its schools. And I also do not believe that there is sufficient demand in some communities. But a comprehensive study of the demand versus supply of the progrmas must be undertaken in order to make changes where warranted and as soon as possible. Schools like Hopewell are already overcrowded to the point of bursting.

What kind of changes might be made as a result of such a study?

  • Perhaps school coverage areas will need to be change to reflect the demand for EFI. While they are at it, change the areas to also keep in mind that coverage zones and electoral zones do not always mesh.
  • There may be the need for new capital stock (expansions to schools) if the demand for French Immersion is very high and the demand for the English program is low.
  • Why not identify the reason why exactly parents are flocking to schools with EFI while simultaneously having the effect of – in some areas – gutting the population of another school or schools.

That final point brings up a serious question: why is this so? Why the big demand?

Some have spoken to the labour force characteristics of this town and the Public Service as its largest employer. As the PS is erroneously though of as a “unilinguals need not apply” game, some parents might think that they are setting up their children for a better shot at a PS job later in life.

But really? Does anyone actually think that this is “the” motivating factor? I cannot think of many parents who dream of a career as a public servant for their child. I’m not knocking the PS – I proudly work in it as well – but as an end goal from which to plan a 6 year old’s education path? It may be one factor among many, but surely not the overriding one.

It could also be argued that some parents prefer the schools with the immersion programs in an “elitist” way (pardon me, I am carrying my Starbucks here!). There is undeniably the perception out there that the “smarter” kids go to immersion schools and non-immersion schools are somehow one rung down the ladder.  While I personally think that this is rubbish, some parents would agree.

For my wife and I, the primary reason behind sending our child to an immersion school was simply because it just “made sense” in a town like Ottawa. French and English are heard side by side almost everywhere in the City. Francophone and Angl;ophone kids go to school together, play soccer together and are neighbours and friends on virtually every street in Ottawa. I cannot remember having any conversations with my wife about job prospects or looking down our noses at the non-immersion school.

It just made sense to us.

And I really think that this is the main reason why parents are choosing French language education over English.

It just makes sense.

But the Board should set out to prove me right or wrong, because unless we know the root causes of this phenomenon, it cannot be expected that any viable solutions will be arrived at in a timely way.


Kids’ medicines recalled

A product recall has been announced for some children’s meds

Check the DIN numbers.


Tina Peyregatt
Markham, ON (April 30, 2010) – Today, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced a voluntary recall of certain over-the-counter (OTC) liquid products manufactured in the United States. In Canada, the impact is limited to all lots of Children’s MOTRIN® and Infants’ MOTRIN® liquid suspension products and Children’s TYLENOL® Cough & Runny Nose liquid suspension only. No other Canadian product is impacted.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Canada) is initiating this voluntary recall, in consultation with Health Canada because these products may not fully meet the required manufacturing specifications. The company advises consumers who have purchased these recalled products to discontinue use.
The company is conducting a comprehensive quality assessment across its manufacturing operations and has identified corrective actions that will be implemented before new manufacturing is initiated at the US plant where the recalled products were made.
Consumers who have purchased Children’s MOTRIN® and Infant’s MOTRIN® liquid
suspension products and Children’s TYLENOL® Cough & Runny Nose liquid suspension products should stop using the product and contact McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Canada) at 1-888-222-6036 for more information. Consumers can also log on to As with all OTC products, if consumers have any concerns about the use of these products, they should contact their health care provider.
About McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Canada):
McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Canada), Division of Johnson & Johnson Inc., markets a broad range of over the counter (OTC) products.

Description                                                                             DIN
Infant’s MOTRIN* Suspension Drops Dye‐Free 30ml                        02238626
Infant’s MOTRIN* Suspension Drops Dye‐Free 15ml                        02238626
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension Dye‐Free 120ml                              02242365
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension 120ml                                                  02242365
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension Grape 120ml                                       02242365
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension Grape 30ml                                         02242365
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension Bubblegum 120ml                             02242365
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension Tropical Punch 120ml                      02242365
Infant’s MOTRIN* Suspension for Fever due to Colds/Flu 30ml         02238626
Children’s MOTRIN* Suspension for Fever due to Colds/Flu 120ml   02242365
Children’s TYLENOL* Cough & Runny Nose Suspension 100ml        02292122


Who’s looking after the kids? Child care policy in Canada

Last night, I attended my first meeting as a Board member of the child care facility that my son attends. I have always been impressed by the level of commitment displayed by those involved in this field – either as professionals or as volunteers. It has been a long time since I sat around a table with like-minded persons to discuss specific child care related issues. When my teen was a pre-schooler, I sat on the Board of her child care Co-op in Guelph, Ontario. It was a learning experience to be sure. Difficult to access funding programs, uncertainties about the funding and always discussions about subsidized spaces were the common topics of each Board meeting.

In the intervening 13 years or so, it might be expected that the issues had changed. After all, we are purported to be a caring society. One that veers a little to the left in the sense that, in general, we believe the state has a role to play in the care of our kids.

Imagine my surprise when 75% of the conversation around the table last night was geared to accessing funding programs, uncertainties about the funding and discussions about subsidized spaces.

OK. I wasn’t really that surprised that nothing has changed – at least not for the better.

Canada’s child care system was and continues to be a patch work quilt of jurisdictions and agencies. Cities and town, provinces and territories. Not-for-profits, for-profits and Co-ops. Public agencies and private. It’s all over the map. As much as we like to brag about our system of health care, we should be equally ashamed of how we have allowed government after government to trivialize or downright ignore the need for a consistent and well-considered national child care policy and the programs to implement such a policy.

The Conservatives have seen it fit to bail out automakers but scoff at the idea of a national system.  Here’s your C-note a month, parents. Now shut up. GM? You need cash? Well c’mon into my office. Minister Flaherty will fix ya up!

The Grits and Dippers have acknowledged the need for a consistent policy in the past. They recognize the basic fact that a child care system that is comprehensive and professional benefits all. It is not only the parents who benefit – especially lower income folks who, in the absence of subsidies, would be forced to stay at home with their kids instead of working to supplement already meager incomes – but all of society does so. Whether you are a parent or not, giving kids a head start will help them become intelligent and productive contributors to society. The kids of today will be our doctors, engineers, and teachers of tomorrow. They will also be paying taxes to support the social systems (e.g., health care) THAT WE WILL ALL DRAW UPON AS WE GET OLDER.

So I don’t want to hear any crap from those who have chosen NOT to have kids about the whole inequity of it all.

Ergo, I am pleased to see that Iggy is reiterating the pledge to work toward a new way of doing things.

The Liberals were in the midst of delivering on a $5-billion national child-care program before they were thrown out of power in the 2006 election. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives came to office, that program was abandoned, in favour of the $100-a-month cheques to Canadian parents known as the Universal Child Care Benefit.

Ignatieff said that if the Liberals are returned to government, that money will keep flowing to parents, but a national child-care program will also be phased in, as soon as the budget can handle it.

“They give the money to families, fine. Anything that helps families is a good idea. But there aren’t the spaces. If you don’t create the spaces, families don’t have a choice. That’s what we’re saying.”

While I realise that the economic shitstorm and the CPC’s fiscal ineptitude has created a scenario where it will be difficult for the Grits to deliver immediately on this pledge, I do hope that they have in place a detailed plan to implement as soon as budgetary conditions permit.