EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta (PIA) has just received a letter from the Information and Privacy Office stating that the government agency will not meet the thirty-day required timeline on PIA’s FOIPP request into the $25.9 million the federal government sent Alberta last summer to create more childcare spaces.
The original Freedom of Information request was submitted December 5th after PIA had been told that the federal money went into general revenues instead of being used to expand Alberta’s childcare system. In January, PIA received a letter stating that the Information and Privacy Office had assessed a fee of $630.50 with half the money required upfront.
On January 15th, PIA submitted a payment of 315.25 with the expectation of receiving the documents by February 15th. On Tuesday, PIA learned that the information would be delayed until as late as March 3 – the day of the provincial election.
“Our original questions about the fate of federal money for Alberta’s childcare and early childhood education programs were based on the fact that the situation just didn’t smell right,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of PIA. “Now that the government has refused to release this information before the election, it absolutely doesn’t pass the ‘smell test’. Albertans have a right to know what happened to the $25.9 million dollars that was transferred from the federal government last summer to create more childcare spaces – and they have a right to do so before the election.”
Alberta spends the lowest per capita on regulated childcare and the lowest for each regulated childcare space of all the provinces. A national study released on December 7th, 2007 from the Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto, shows Alberta spends $1093 per childcare space compared to the national average of $3259.
“Why in the wealthiest province in Canada do we not support our childcare and early childhood development system, leaving families on long waiting lists and childcare centres and their staff struggling to survive?” asks Noreen Murphy, Chairperson of PIA’s Childcare Task Force and Executive Director of Churchill Park Family Care Society in Calgary. “We need a comprehensive early childhood development system that supports families to develop the full potential of all Alberta’s children – and we need the funding to do so.”
The situation is urgent, said Moore-Kilgannon. “Over two thirds of Alberta mothers with children under six years of age are in the workforce – but only 9.3% of them have access to regulated child care. This clearly means that thousands of families are left with no access to regulated quality care, and that’s completely unacceptable in this province. Child care should be a crucial issue in this provincial election, but the government won’t even provide the information that is essential to an informed debate. We need transparency on this vital issue, and we need it now - not after March 3.”
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