41st Annual Premiers’ Conference


WINNIPEG, AUGUST 11, 2000 --Today, Premiers reaffirmed their commitment to the well-being of children by setting out their vision of early childhood development as an investment in the future of Canada. This builds on the priority Premiers placed on children's issues at last year's Annual Premiers' Conference and on the significant investments already made by their governments in early childhood development services.

Premiers emphasized that children should be physically and emotionally healthy, safe and secure, ready to learn, and be socially engaged and responsible. The challenge is to help children reach their potential and to help families support their children within strong communities.

Research has shown that the early years of a child's life are critical in the development and future well-being of the child and that children thrive within families and communities that can meet their physical and developmental needs and can provide security, nurturing, respect and love.

Premiers agreed that parents and families play the primary role in supporting and nurturing children. Communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, professional networks, associations, volunteers and government also make key contributions to the well-being of children. Premiers are committed to helping all sectors of society support children in their early years and to making further investments in this area as fiscal circumstances allow.

Provinces and territories have primary responsibility for early childhood policies and programs and have shown leadership by taking steps to address key children's issues in their jurisdictions. Premiers agreed that it is important that each jurisdiction be able to address its own priorities and recognized that this work can be guided by a common vision.

While provinces and territories have the key role in government to address children's issues, the federal government can support the provinces and territories by providing them with funding to help them build their systems of services for children.

Premiers indicated their willingness to work with the federal government to help meet the needs of children in their early years and set out their proposed approach on how the two orders of government could work together. The federal government has signalled that it will provide additional funding to provinces and territories to help them meet the diverse needs of children in their jurisdictions. Premiers urged the federal government to meet this commitment and proposed principles to guide co-operative work between the two orders of government.

Priorities for Early Childhood Development

Premiers agreed that early childhood development could be focussed on any or all of the following four key areas:

  • pregnancy, birth and infancy;
  • parenting and family supports;
  • early childhood development, learning and care;
  • community supports.

Working Together To Meet Children's Needs

These principles outline how governments could work together to meet the needs of children:

  • provincial/territorial governments have the primary responsibility for children's services;
  • the federal government's role is to help provinces and territories build their systems of programs and services for children by providing funding through the federal transfer system;
  • governments commit to clarifying the roles and responsibilities between the two orders of government and to reducing overlap and duplication of programs and services to children; and
  • the federal government has a unique responsibility toward Aboriginal people that must be recognized and respected.

Funding to Support Early Childhood Development

Premiers agreed that:

  • ensuring effective child development is a long-term commitment to our children's future. Federal funding to provinces and territories for early childhood development should be permanent, incremental and grow over time in recognition of inflation and cost-drivers;
  • federal funding should also be in addition to the full restoration of the Canada Health and Social Transfer1 to 1994-95 levels with an appropriate escalator;
  • federal funding arrangements should build on the significant provincial/territorial investments already made in this area and ensure provinces and territories have the flexibility to address local needs and priorities. A block transfer would provide the most flexibility for provinces and territories. That flexibility should also include the ability to opt out of any new or modified Canada wide social program with full compensation, provided that a province or territory carries on a program or initiative that addresses the priority areas of the Canada-wide program.

Public Reporting

Premiers recognized the importance of public reporting and of being accountable to their constituents for the services they deliver.

1 The Canada Health and Social Transfer is the vehicle through which the federal government transfers funds for health, post-secondary education, and other social programs.

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