And now for something completely different: Good news from New Brunswick


A reader writes, and I paraphrase: “While I agree with you about New Brunswick’s economic troubles and fiscal morass, why don’t you write something inspirational that offers some solutions? Why do you have to be such a jerk?”

I get love notes along those lines from time to time. I’m used to them, like this one from a few years back: “You disgusting, pompous prig! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”

Which only serves notice that you should never forget your bartender’s birthday.

Still, I am not such an unreconstructed curmudgeon that I can’t recognize good news in this province when it becomes evident.

Consider, for example, a new report out of the Atkinson Centre, a research pod at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. It says that this fine province has managed to improve its grade for the environment and services it provides to early childhood educators by a factor of two since 2011.

Specifically, it says: “In New Brunswick, the mandate for early childhood services merged under a new Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in April 2011. A new action plan, Putting Children First, details initiatives through to 2015 and builds on Be Ready for Success: A 10 year Early Childhood Strategy for New Brunswick (2008).”

At that time, “commitments included strengthening the capacity of communities to support families and young children through the integration of early childhood and family support services. In partnership with the Margaret and Wallace McCain Foundation, the Government of New Brunswick piloted Early Childhood Development Centres to inform program practice and help guide policy-makers in the building of an inclusive and accessible, family-centred child care and education system.”

Then, earlier this year, “the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released The Linguistic and Cultural Development Policy: A Societal Project for the French Education System. This report was the result of a broad consultation to support the Acadian and Francophone community in meeting the challenges of the linguistic minority context.”

Fundamentally, though, “considerable attention is paid to the early years (birth to age 8) when the foundations for language and learning are established. The plan commits to ensuring equal access to services in French, including a single entry point in both urban and rural areas; the creation of a single file for each child, whatever the number and type of services received; and enhanced linguistic support to the professionals working in the francophone community.”

Overall, the 2014 survey gives New Brunswick a score of 8, compared with 4.5 three years ago, for its performance on the early childhood education front. That puts this least fiscally promising province in Canada, if not at the head of pack, at least in the crowd of first finishers. Or, as Atkinson Centre spokesperson Emis Akbari told the Telegraph-Journal last week, “It is not just about how much money is invested. It is about governance, funding, access, the learning environment that kids are exposed to and accountability. New Brunswick has moved ahead in quite a few areas.”

And that’s just great. I’m seriously happy about this happenstance, so don’t get me wrong when I say: Now what?

It seems to almost everyone in this business that the provinces are doing all the heavy lifting – all the weight-training the federal government decided to reject in 2006.

How long, then, can “have-not” jurisdictions, such as New Brunswick, be expected to cover the cost of providing, in its own region, what should be a national, publicly subsidized, universally accessible system of early childhood education?

Instead, this country’s parents are, just now, promised enriched monthly child benefits without the infrastructure, care, expertise and consistency that such investments would otherwise lever in a more sensibly arranged society.

The longterm social and economic advantages of a structured, comprehensive system of early childhood education, integrated into every public school system in Canada are so patently obvious, the fact that we’re not rushing to introduce one is just one of many patent absurdities that lace our evidence-hating proclivities in this erstwhile great nation.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be a jerk about this.

After all, too many federal, public officials already evince this personality trait far better than I ever could.

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