Turpel-Lafond: "a matter of note and concern..."

Earlier, we reported children and family development will be looking at "fiscal restraint measures" in the coming weeks, resulting in the possible revisitation of timelines for some ministry initiatives. Although, top bureaucrat Lesley du Toit has also stated the ministry remains "committed" to these initiatives and to a "system of support" for vulnerable children and families. So what does children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond think about that announcement? Well, in an interview on Public Eye Radio, Ms. Turpel-Lafond stated Ms. du Toit's email was, "a matter of note and concern in my office. And I had an opportunity to raise it almost immediately after I saw the note to see what this means. And it would appear from the response I got that no one is quite sure what it means."

"But, of course, it causes some concern to me because if there is an announcement of some kind of a cut or change in programming, it's very important to me as the oversight body that we make sure that vulnerable children and the youth in British Columbia are supported," she continued. "And, if there are some restraint measures, that we carefully consider in advance - not after the fact - how that's going to impact those outcomes for some of those already very vulnerable children."

"From my side, I want to preserve and protect what's there for children," the representative added. "Now, it is clear from our oversight activities that a lot of the activities at the ministry and the contracts that it funds, the ministry doesn't know and they can't speak with any confidence about whether or not those serve positive impacts for children. So is there some opportunity to optimize some areas? There may very well be. But that has to be a discussion."

"My concern is no across-the-board cuts, where they sort of say, '15 percent will be cut from every ministry including this one.' Because that is where it becomes very harmful. Because MCFD is already very regionalized - a lot of autonomy for budgets in the regions without a lot of performance expectations. So that could mean uneven service from region-to-region and from place-to-place. And that means some children will be more vulnerable than others. So I'd like this to be a rational discussion."

"But, my first and foremost position would be, in tough economic times you probably need to support more the kids. And I note here Sean that, last week, Ontario - which is facing a more dire financial situation, at least based on the public accounting in British Columbia, than here - they announced a very ambitious five-year plan to address child poverty, even in their circumstances, because they're concerned they don't want that situation to worsen. So it would be regrettable to me if British Columbia - which is in a better situation really, they're still projecting a surplus - if they would place some sort of claw back or cuts that would effect vulnerable children."

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