EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta (PIA) released the findings of their freedom of information request into the $25.9 million dollars the federal government gave Alberta in the summer of 2007 to create more childcare spaces.
“The Alberta government is clearly continuing to play a game of hide and seek with the federal government funds that were supposed to have been allocated for childcare,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “When there is such an obvious and crying need for more support for quality, affordable childcare in this growing province, Albertans expect ‘openness and transparency’ on this issue – not page after page of blank documents, which is what we received as a result of this costly process.”
Moore-Kilgannon expressed “grave concern” that at least 80% of the documents PIA received are “severed” (ie. Blank.) “It’s not as if we are dealing with national security concerns related to Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan – we are dealing with childcare here, and with our governments’ communications about paying for child care spaces – why the secrecy?”
At the same time, Moore-Kilgannon said that, despite the prevalence of blank pages, there are some important details that are revealed in the documents:
- When previously questioned by the media about the federal funding, the Alberta government spokespersons said that they had “anticipated” the federal funding and included it in the budget for 2007 – 2008. However, only two weeks before the federal government presented their budget, the documents show that Children’s Services senior staff learned about the federal plan to give the money to the provinces for the first time.
- The provincial budget recommendations for childcare had long since been submitted to the Treasury Board by March 13th and there is no indication in the documents that Children’s Services staff, Treasury Board or Finance made any adjustment to the provincial budget that was released on April 19th, 2007. The provincial budget for this current year (2007 – 2008) was in fact reduced from $147 million in 2006 – 07 to $134 million.
- Suzanne Anselmo, Senior Manager of Intergovernmental Initiative for Alberta’s Children’s Service wrote an e-mail to Cathy Ducharme, Communications, Children’s Services on April 3, 2007, saying that, “We have no information from the federal government as of yet as to when the large value transfer is coming to Alberta – general revenue fund not ACS directly. This last point is particularly important, since it demonstrates that the clear intention was to put the federal fund into the province’s general revenue rather than Children’s Services.
“We are calling on auditors-general of Canada and Alberta to conduct a full audit of the books to shine a bright light on how the province has been using federal funds for childcare,” says Noreen Murphy, Chairperson of PIA’s Childcare Task Force and Executive Director of Churchill Park Family Care Society in Calgary.
“People who work in childcare and all the families struggling to find quality affordable care will be very angry to learn that Alberta’s contribution to the childcare budget has not been full adjusted to address the federal contribution to childcare funding in Alberta. We need the facts, we need transparency, and we need it now.”
Moore-Kilgannon also pointed out that this latest issue is a part of an ongoing and increasingly serious problem in the Alberta government’s approach to spending on childcare. In 2005 – 06 the federal government gave Alberta $93.2 million dollars to the province and Alberta only spent $78.3 million and in 2006 -07 the federal government gave Alberta $96.9 million and they only spent $103.7 million.
The childcare budget for 2006 – 2007 was increased to $147 million for that year, but the province did not spend $43 million of that budget.
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