Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Social Services

NEWS RELEASE – Ministers meet to discuss collaborative work on social issues

OTTAWA, October 20, 2005 — Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for Social Services met today to talk about progress made on the Early Learning and Child Care initiative, disability issues, caregiving, and child poverty.

The Federal/Provincial/Territorial Forum of Ministers responsible for Social Services is co-chaired by Minister of Social Development, Ken Dryden, and Minister of Health and Social Services for Prince Edward Island, Chester Gillan. Both Ministers agreed that governments will continue working together to address important social policy issues.

Ministers affirmed that a key priority for the forum over the next year will be persons with disabilities. They reaffirmed their commitment to the objective of the full inclusion of Canadians with disabilities in society. The focus for achieving this objective will be joint work with emphasis on improving access to and funding for disability supports and services and for income supports for persons with disabilities, at the same time working to build public awareness and stakeholder and government support to address the challenges facing people with disabilities. At their next meeting, Ministers will consider jointly developed options in these areas that address both the short- and longer-term aspects of achieving this objective.

Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers have moved forward on early learning and child care since they identified it as a priority last fall. They reviewed their progress and committed to ongoing negotiations to develop the outstanding Agreements-in-Principle and to proceed expeditiously with the related funding agreements, based on the shared principles of quality, universally inclusive, accessible, and developmental early learning and child care (QUAD).

Given the urgent need to develop services for Aboriginal people, provincial and territorial governments will work with the Government of Canada and Aboriginal peoples to find practical solutions to address the early learning and child care needs of Aboriginal children in Canada.

Provincial/Territorial governments look forward to being fully engaged in the development of the early learning and child care knowledge strategy.

Minister Gillan stated, “Provincial/Territorial Ministers had a productive and constructive discussion of current and emerging issues. Provincial/Territorial Ministers agreed that sexual exploitation of children and youth is a complex issue and would benefit from future work.”

“We are making progress on social issues that affect the lives of Canadians,” said Minister Dryden. “To tackle the economic and demographic challenges of the future, we need the confidence that comes from solid, secure social foundations. And if we are to strengthen our social foundations, as governments, we have to work together. It’s what Canadians expect of us.”

The Ministers recognized the essential role that unpaid caregivers play in our society and how important it is to support and preserve their capacity to care for family members and friends. Governments agreed to work toward strengthening support for unpaid caregivers, and asked their officials to immediately work closely together to develop concrete options in key areas to better support unpaid caregivers.

"Today's discussions helped to foster collaborative approaches to better support caregivers,” said Tony Ianno, Minister of State (Families and Caregivers). "I am committed to working with my counterparts to determine the best ways to provide relief to Canada's unsung heroes.”

Minister Melnick, Manitoba Minister of Family Services and Housing and Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities stated, “We are very pleased to be participating in this new effort to address the needs of unpaid caregivers.  These individuals play an essential role in providing care for persons with disabilities, seniors and other Canadians in need. ”

Ministers reviewed the National Child Benefit (NCB) initiative and acknowledged the progress made by governments and the positive impact the NCB and other government initiatives have made in reducing child poverty. Ministers recognized that more can be done and discussed possible further federal/provincial/territorial collaboration that would build on the NCB’s success. They expressed interest in looking more closely at low-income issues and how they affect Canadians, and asked officials to develop scenarios for future federal/provincial/territorial collaboration that Ministers can discuss at their next meeting.

Ministers agreed to make discussions of emerging social policy issues a feature of future meetings.

Even though Qu ebec has obtained and wishes to continue obtaining its fair share of the federal funding allocated under the various federal/provincial/territorial initiatives mentioned, and while sharing the same concerns as other governments in these areas, the province has reiterated that it wishes to maintain its sole responsibility for developing, planning, managing and delivering programs in the areas discussed at the meeting. To that end, the province has expressed interest in sharing information and best practices with other governments, especially with regard to Qu ebec ’s expertise in childcare services.

Ministers announced that Stan Hagen, British Columbia’s Minister of Children and Family Development, will assume the responsibilities of the provincial co-chair, replacing Chester Gillan who has served in that position since 2003. The next Federal/Provincial/Territorial Forum of Ministers responsible for Social Services Meeting is expected to take place in Spring 2006.

- 30 -

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Tomlinson
A/Director of Communications
Minister Dryden’s Office
(613) 941-0766

Media Relations
Social Development Canada
(613) 941-1110
Web site: www.sdc.gc.ca

Brian Bertelsen
PEI Department of Health & Social Services
(902) 626-9909