“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian

These words were particularly fitting as the Mount welcomed the Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain to campus for a special presentation to a packed auditorium. The topic, creating new policies in support of early childhood education, is one Ms. McCain has been sharing with audiences from coast to coast as she works to create momentum behind what she believes will be critical to the success of our nation.

“The Canadian family is changing. It’s smaller and more diverse; parents are older and they are also poorer. Just having a child puts families at risk of poverty,” said Ms. McCain, former Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. “Early childhood education supports these families no matter their size or shape. It makes it easier for them to balance work, school and play while protecting more vulnerable children with earlier entry into a nurturing environment.”

Ms. McCain is widely recognized for her role in furthering early childhood education policies across the country. For the past two decades, she has been involved in extensive research into the models that best support children in their early years and the long term results of widespread access to early childhood education. It’s with these studies that she hopes to arm Canada’s policy makers with a strong case to work toward this common purpose – a process that would involve increasing funding, simplifying management among departments, and creating a shared understanding of early education standards and strategies.

“Early childhood educators in many places are paid less than dog walkers. We need to elevate pay, training and respect for these professionals. There’s an appetite among parents; there’s a huge desire to get this going and get it going fast. It takes longer to educate governments but we are making progress.”

Ms. McCain cites Quebec as a role model for other provinces. With the addition of low cost child care programs through the Educational Child Care Policy, over 70,000 mothers were able to enter the workforce, creating $1.5 billion in tax revenue and reducing the amount paid in tax and social benefits by $340 million. For every dollar spent on early childhood education, Quebec receives $1.05 back.

“Early childhood education is economic development. It allows parents to work as kids enter the schools while preparing the next generation for success and creating jobs in its own right. Done correctly, early education pays for itself. By contrast, failing children during their early years is very, very expensive.”

While on campus, Ms. McCain was pleased to see the Mount’s newest classroom facility take shape: the Margaret Norrie McCain Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research.

“I’m very thrilled about the new building and that I will have a permanent attachment to this university. It’s really very special to me and I look forward to coming back often.”