By Alex Rinfret- The islands will be receiving fresh money for programs benefiting babies and young children, MLA Linda Reid, minister of state for early childhood development, announced during a three-day visit last week.
Ms Reid said the islands will receive $490,000 from her ministry this year, and about 60 per cent of that is new funding. How it will be spent is up to a local steering committee.
The provincial government wants to let communities decide how to spend the early childhood dollars, Ms Reid told a public meeting in Masset Friday evening (Feb. 7). The province will set the outcomes it wants to see, and it will be up to communities and regions to choose which programs can accomplish them.
“You will see a whole different basket of services emerging in different parts of the province,” she said.
Programs funded by her ministry include mentoring for new parents, infant development, literacy and toy lending, as well as support for children with special needs, fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.
Ms Reid said her goal is to make sure all children in the province get the best possible start in life, which pays off when they grow up to become productive citizens. Success in school and in adult life very much depends on the quality of care children receive in their earliest years, she said.
“It actually makes good fiscal sense to intervene when children are younger,” the minister said, adding that “what you want for your children is not that different from what I want for the 270,000 babes in BC.”
Ms Reid spent her three days on the islands meeting with people who work with children and community leaders, from Queen Charlotte and Skidegate to Masset, Old Massett and Port Clements. A seasoned politician, she spent many years in opposition, including stints as critic for health and municipal affairs, and has visited the Charlottes several times.
Her position – minister of state for early childhood development – is the first such position in Canada, and she said she loves her job.
“I think I have the most delightful job in government,” she said. “I call myself the ‘baby minister’.”
She also wanted the public to know about the Legacy Fund for Early Childhood Development. The province is putting $5-million into this fund, which will be administered by the Vancouver Foundation. It will give grants to community organizations and agencies for any programs which help make sure children enter school ready to learn, she said. (For more information, check out the provincial government’s web site.)
Ms Reid praised North Coast MLA Bill Belsey for inviting her to visit the islands, and Masset mayor Barry Pages for hosting the public meeting, calling him “the liveliest mayor of anywhere in the province.”
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