• The Guardian (Charlottetown)
  • 28 Oct 2019

The King government recently announced the creation of a publicly funded, half-day preschool program for four-year-olds on P.E.I.

As long as the funding is adequate, such a program will help thousands of Island families, especially those living on low and moderate incomes.

Within 24 hours, the Green Party was expressing its opposition on the basis that it would stretch a childcare and early childhood education system already finding it hard to recruit enough staff due to inadequate wages.

For a party which claims to care about social justice issues and said they would like to co-operate in running the Island, this attitude lacks any sense of social purpose and resolve.

A publicly funded junior kindergarten program will cut living costs for many families.

Parents of four-year-olds currently staying at home because of high childcare costs will have those costs halved, and are more likely to return to work giving the economy a boost and generating more tax revenue. Children with challenges will benefit from the opportunity to get a head start on play, social and learning skills.

I definitely agree that wages in the childcare sector are too low and a major cause of staff recruitment challenges.

But, if there are not enough teachers and wages are too low, then government needs to increase wages.

That’s what the community must fight for. Any party with an iota of loyalty to working families would support this program and, at the same time, fight for decent wages for childcare workers and adequate funding for the sector.

It occurs to me that the Greens’ lack of enthusiasm for a publiclyfunded, half-day kindergarten program is consistent with its conservatism generally, and its unwillingness to look at direct public investment in, and public delivery of, all manner of much needed public services including housing and transit.

Leah-Jane Hayward is president of the New Democratic Party of Prince Edward Island