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A new study confirms that early childhood education has an important impact on the growing brains of young children. Yet Canada ranks “dead last” in spending among developed countries, and still lacks a coordinated cross-Canada system of care.

“Your behavour is largely set by how you are handled in the very early years,” said co-author Dr. Fraser Mustard at the report launch. He and co-author Stuart Shanker unveiled the 185-page study at the University of Toronto child care center, where the workers are members of CUPE 2484.

“If we can address needs of children in care early, rather than later, we can help that child reach their maximum potential. It also means we can equal the playing field for all children,” says Mustard.

The Early Years Study 2, published by the Council for Early Child Development, is the sequel to the groundbreaking Early Years study published in 1999.

Both studies point to the vital role quality early learning and child care plays in healthy brain development. Early learning experiences shape a child’s emotional, physical and mental health and have a profound on a child’s ability to learn.

The findings are an urgent call for government action. Report co-author Stuart Shanker described the current state of early learning and care as a “chaotic patchwork” that must be re-shaped into community hubs with child care centres, highly trained staff and extensive support programs for parents all under one roof.

Canada spends just one-quarter of one per cent of its GDP on early childhood programs, while other OECD countries spend up to two per cent. The report comes just days before the Conservative government’s $1 billion cut to federal funding for child care comes into effect on March 31.

New Democratic children and youth critic Olivia Chow pointed out this is far from breaking news – it’s the legacy of broken promises and government inaction.

Chow says the report shows just how out of touch the Conservatives are with the needs of Canadian families. “The Conservatives have instituted an ABC policy - Anything But Child care - and it gets a failing grade from working families.”

The NDP’s national child care act, Bill C-303, has passed second reading and is coming to the House of Commons Human Resources committee for hearings in April.