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January 30, 2003
Project launches "made-in-Canada strategy" for early learning and child care
The City of Toronto and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) today launched
Toronto First Duty at JR Wilcox Community School. The three-year project
involves about 1,200 children at five sites located in Toronto District School
Board schools: JR Wilcox Community School, Bruce Public School, Corvette Public
School, Secord Public School and Queen Victoria Public School.

"Toronto First Duty is a made-in-Canada strategy for meeting the early learning
and care needs of young children," said Donna Cansfield co-chair of the TDSB.
She and co-chair Shelley Carroll were on hand to launch the program.

The project combines kindergarten, child care and parenting supports into a
single comprehensive program for children under 6 years of age. The City of
Toronto, the Atkinson Charitable Foundation and the Canadian Autoworkers Union
(CAW) Child Care Fund contribute to the $5 million budget. Funding from Human
Resources Development supports research and evaluation.

"This is local leaders using their on-the-ground expertise to provide senior
governments with a blueprint of how to do the early years policy right," said
Charles Pascal of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, one of the project

As the federal and provincial governments prepare to unveil a new national plan
for child care, the City's Children's Advocate, Councillor Olivia Chow urged
Ottawa to put conditions on new funding that would require provinces to
incorporate the three early years pillars - early learning, child care and
parenting supports - as a condition of funding.

Business leaders called on the federal government to provide sufficient funds
in the upcoming federal budget to kick-start the program and challenged
provincial governments across the country to follow suit. "Business can do its
part, but early learning and child care is an issue of national importance,
requiring the leadership that only senior governments can provide," said
Charles Coffey, executive vice-president of the RBC Financial Group.

General Motors of Canada President Michael Grimaldi, and CAW President Buzz
Hargrove used their joint child care fund as an example of private sector
co-operation. "We can never bargain enough child care to meet the needs of auto
workers - nor is that our job. Ensuring that every child has the best start
possible and that families are supported to work and to parent - that's the job
of the federal and provincial government working with communities," said

The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, co-author with Dr. Fraser Mustard of the
Early Years Study commissioned by the provincial government, called the Toronto
First Duty project "a culmination of our work of the past four years. These are
the child development and parenting centres we recommended be available for
every child."

Emily Noble, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
welcomed the initiative, which sees kindergarten teachers, early childhood
educators and parent support workers delivering a common curriculum. "Educators
from all three professions are committed to the quality preschool education and
parent supports contained in Toronto First Duty. These provide children with
the 'smart start' they need for school and for life."

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