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Poll shows support for increasing early childhood spending

More than 70 per cent of B.C. residents underestimate how many of the province's children enter school developmentally vulnerable, an Angus Reid poll released today shows.

And most of those polled expressed strong support for increased public spending once they learned how many B.C. children are at risk and how low Canadian investment in early childhood education and daycare is in contrast to other wealthy countries.

Twenty-nine per cent of B.C. children, including many kids from middle-class homes, are developmentally vulnerable, according to the UBC-based Human Early Learning Partnership. "Developmentally vulnerable" is defined as not being ready to learn when a child enters kindergarten.

More than 88 per cent of those polled said they support the provincial government's goal of reducing the number of children at risk in B.C. to 15 per cent by 2015. More that 60 per cent would be willing to endorse an additional public expenditure of a billion dollars a year to reach that goal. Eighty-three per cent supported financial support for low income families. Fifty-eight per cent supported extending paid parental leave to 18 months from one year, with additional months for fathers, and 53 per cent supported limiting the work week for parents of young children to 35 hours.

The poll results were released as part of a two-day symposium at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue titled "Inspiring Innovation -- Investing in Human Capital, Early Care and Learning Hubs," an event supported by the YWCA of Vancouver, City of Vancouver and VanCity Credit Union and hosted by the Vancouver Joint Child Care Council and the Vancouver Early Childhood Development MOU Steering Committee.

Tamara Vrooman, VanCity president and CEO, told the symposium during a morning panel that B.C. needs to make the kind of long term investment in reducing child vulnerability that it is proposing to make in the Site C dam.

"Strong family policy is not simply a social issue," she said. "It is a core economic issue that the business sector needs to talk about in a serious way because investing in our children today is really an investment in our workforce of tomorrow."

The Angus Reid public opinion survey, funded by the YWCA, was conducted online on April 12th of this year and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent. The poll reflects answers from 800 respondents.

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