Skip to content

Valley parents concerned with changes to early childhood education program

“The fact that our questions were doctored so that Miranda didn’t have to answer them is a direct attack to those parents that were standing outside wanting their voices heard. It made that meeting not an open profile meeting, but a conservative borne meeting, and it just goes to show where they stand and that’s really disheartening.”

CANMORE – A group of local parents concerned over changes coming to the provicially funded Parent Link program say they aren’t happy after a meeting with local UCP MLA Miranda Rosin.

A presentation by Rosin on the provincial budget hosted by Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association and the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce Friday (Nov. 22) was attended by parents in hopes of gaining clarity on the issue. 

However, they say questions the group submitted in advance for the MLA were not asked, or altered, leaving them feeling unsatisfied with the process. 

“[I’m] beyond pissed off,” said Amy Clark, a local parent who frequently uses Parent Link services.

“The fact that our questions were doctored so that Miranda didn’t have to answer them is a direct attack to those parents that were standing outside wanting their voices heard. It made that meeting not an open profile meeting, but a conservative borne meeting, and it just goes to show where they stand and that’s really disheartening.”

According to BOWDA CEO Ron Remple the presentation on the UCP government's 2019 budget was initially intended for members of the two associations and other business groups. However, due to interest in the community – it was opened to the public. 

"Once it got onto Facebook, people started making it – indicating it was open to the public, which it wasn't," said Remple. 

"But once we started to see all the comments, mostly around Parent Link, which I think is a great program and needs to be protected ...  what we did is we then opened it up to the public once we started to see those comments and the need for it."

The interest in the meeting, according to Clark, stemmed predominantly from roughly 70 parents from the valley who have grown fearful after Bow Valley Parent Link received a notice its contract is terminated as of end of March 31, 2020.

“There are so many things that go on through Parent Link … When we lose that, we lose it for good,” said Clark. “It’s not something we can rewrite in a month's time when we know if we’re getting funding or not.”

When the meeting arose, Clark said local parents were hopeful for an opportunity to speak to their MLA. However, the Friday morning event did not go as they had hoped.

While parents were invited to attend, registration was capped and a specific format was put in place for questions. During the actual meeting, the audience was expected to be quiet and participants were asked to send any questions prior to the meeting to be asked by Remple.

“We had to send in our questions ahead of time under a certain format,” said Clark.

“We did this and [our questions] were completely rewritten … so we didn’t even get to have our voice in that meeting regardless. Our questions [changed], so Miranda didn’t have to answer them.”

Rosin began the morning by addressing “the elephant in the room,” in which she repeatedly said the Parent Link program was not being cut.

However, Lisa Brown, manager of community social development for the Town of Canmore who oversees Parent Link, said she thinks there was a lot of misinformation in the way the budget was framed during the meeting.

“The main things that I have taken form the budget and have taken from this last few weeks with the ending of Parent Link funding and now the new expression of interest is that Parent link is not going to exist after March 31st,” she said.

“We were directed to close our doors, we were directed to suspend our contract. There is this new funding opportunity; the funding opportunity means that in the Bow Valley there’ll be less money for early intervention. In the provincial budget, even though there’s $15 million more going to children services, its actually fewer dollars going to early prevention.”

Brown also said she felt that the reduction in stable funding was not addressed.

“Parent Link has had fairly stable funding," said Brown. 

Brown said with the changes there is uncertainty around not only what the program will look like but also the amount of funding available, so after March 31st 2020, it is unclear what funding for early childhood education will look like. 

Meanwhile, Clark said prior to the meeting, Remple contacted her multiple times to ensure parents attending were well behaved.

“[He said] that he wasn’t going to allow us to come if we were going to be violent or cause a ruckus or be shouting," she said. "I was like you know what Ron that’s not the intention here. There are a large amount of angry parents who are concerned about the provincial budget and how its affecting Parent Link.”

Clark said she received a call from an RCMP officer, which was concerning for parents wishing to attend the event to have their issues addressed. 

“We’re smart enough to know that throwing battle axes and bringing pitchforks is not going to actually bring any sort of outcome, so we’re there to have a proper discussion,” said Clark.

Remple said once the meeting was opened to the public, the format was changed to sort of mirror an election forum in which he was the moderator.  

"So as a moderator, did I moderate the questions? Yes I did, I wanted to make sure there was continuity in the way the questions were asked," he said. 

"I was encouraging some of the parents involved with Parent Link to meet directly with the MLA to express the concerns and the funding. My understanding is they're now intent on doing that, which I think is the right approach."

Another local parent, Sarah Thurston, who has two children with special needs and relies heavily on Parent Link services, also said she felt the meeting wasn’t productive.

“My specific question was definitely not answered as they omitted it from the list of questions,” said Thurston.

“Mine pertained to special needs and how Parent Link is a major resource for people with kids with special needs in terms of early intervention and connecting them with the community… I was hoping that we would be getting more of an understanding of why the budget is the way it is, which did not happen, and I was hoping to get the feeling that [Rosin] was really working for the people in the Bow Valley with young children and, again, I did not leave feeling that way.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that RCMP told concerned parents that protesting at the meeting would not be tolerated. The RCMP contacted parents to conduct a risk assessment and there was no police presence at the meeting as a result. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks