* An invitation to contribute your suggestions and feedback is included towards the end of this piece.
Politicians aren’t shy about communicating what they think should be done to address challenges and needs in British Columbia. Yet how often do constituents have an opportunity to communicate with politicians and bureaucrats about their experiences and concerns? People can support ideas and agendas through the votes that they cast and some more politically active British Columbians join political parties, volunteer with organizations or campaign for causes. Unfortunately many people are resigned to feeling that they only get to share their opinions around election time – a time when politicians often discuss the topics that appear to be popular. Haven’t we all heard the term “National Daycare Programme” bandied about decade after decade by federal politicians?
The best time to address issues and concerns is in the quieter moments in between elections. Elected politicians will seek input face-to-face or via social media and constituents have more opportunities, nowadays, to pass on their questions and concerns. As a parent, grand-parent or concerned citizen who cares about families in British Columbia, it is now possible to provide input to elected officials while, at the same time, sharing your contributions more broadly with everyone in the community.
We often have to communicate with politicians we don’t particularly like who come from a different planet, ideologically. It may seem like an insurmountable task to collaborate in this type of circumstance. As Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia points out, to engage in dialogue and reach a consensus we need to know which “intuition buttons” to honour. The five “receptors” include: what’s fair and what amounts to cheating; what constitutes caring or harm to others; loyalty and betrayal; respect for authority or subversion of authority; and concerns about what is sacred or degrading.
Premier Christy Clark indicated in her leadership campaign and has emphasized more recently as Premier that the needs and concerns of families in British Columbia are a priority for her administration. She would like to hear from people like yourself about what is and isn’t working for families here in BC. Regardless of your political affiliations or how you feel about Premier Clark and her colleagues, this is an ideal opportunity to voice your concerns and to share information. All politicians – whether or not they belong to the BC Liberal Party – also have the opportunity to hear what you have to say and consider your input.
The Premier would like to begin a dialogue about the challenges and concerns that parents in British Columbia face and what government can do to make life easier and better for British Columbia. While considering this topic it is helpful to be aware of constraints, inevitable trade-offs and choices that have to be made when policies are developed and implemented. (See page 8 and 9 of the Service Plan referenced in the “Related” section below for background information about current constraints and challenges in BC.)
To further inform yourself about the work that is being done in the province of British Columbia, consult the Welcome BC, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health (Children and Youth section) and Ministry of Children and Family Development (including the Early Childhood Intervention programme) websites. On these pages you will find information about the core programmes that the BC government runs in support of children and families in the province.
It’s your turn to have your say. What would you like to say to Premier Clark about the challenges that your family is facing? There is no wrong feedback or written format, however elaborate or concise your contributions might be.
On the flip side, which programmes and services are working for your family? Which programmes should continue to receive the current level or increased funding? For example, the Strong Start programme has been well received and could be expanded further.
* What is a general topic of concern that affects your family? For example, you might be concerned about services to help children with special needs.
* What is a specific example of the challenges that your family (or someone you know) is facing? For example, a wait list for speech therapy in Vancouver can clear in three months whilst in Coquitlam it can be over two years.
* Can you give a suggestion about what kinds of changes could be made? For example, attention should be paid to how staffing levels of support professionals have not changed in areas that have experienced a population surge, such as the TriCities area in the Lower Mainland. An inability to support and provide early intervention services results in magnified challenges in later school years. More group classes such as the Hanen Programme could be funded to provide up to eight families at one time with speech therapy training while eight children are waiting to clear the speech therapy wait list.
* Can you give an example of best practices elsewhere that could be considered by BC officials? For example, in Italy coordinated and integrated publicly funded Early Childhood Education and Care (ECE&C) programmes address the needs of early education and also care, enabling women to remain in and re-enter the workforce. The Italian example provides quality programmes such as the Reggio Emilia curriculum to children at the infant and pre-school level. Children can fully participate in these programmes irregardless of the work status of both parents. In contrast, much of the 19% rise in unemployment in the United Kingdom is connected to the cuts in child tax credits and child benefits. These British women cannot afford childcare and therefore cannot afford to work. This is not good news for the struggling UK economy. When women stay in and enter the workforce, their presence invigorates the economy. This is one of the primary motivations for promoting and developing comprehensive coordinated ECE&C programmes in Scandinavian countries. The tax dollars in these countries ear marked to support families are well spent.
Here is an example of the types of topics that might come to mind; however, do not feel constrained by these examples. Do focus on the issues that are most relevant to you and your family.
* increased support for childcare, and supports for families to enable parents to choose to stay home with their young children
* a comprehensive poverty action plan that includes a living wage for families
* increased availability of safe and affordable housing for low-income families
* increased investment in prevention and early intervention programs and services that reduce risk for children and families. (This list was posted online by Marilee Peters, Director of Communications, BC Council for Families.)
You’re invited to share your input in the comment section of this page (see below), on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page or by sending an E-mail via BCFamily.ca. Please send your contributions by 9 PM, Sunday, May 6th.
All input will be shared anonymously unless you decide to include more personal information such as your full name and related details, or first name and the initials of your last name in the body of your contribution. All feedback will be shared directly with Premier Clark and her colleagues, on this website, via social media and the #BCpoli and #CC4moms hashtags on Twitter, thereby enabling anyone who is interested to benefit from the information that you have shared.
Your input is invaluable, unique and is most appreciated.
On page 3 of the Ministry of Children and Family Development Service Plan you can find the six key areas where there will be improvements regarding the quality of programmes.