Thursday, April 12, 2007

The waiting list myth

The myth of the waiting list, whether for health care procedures or as highlighted in recent days, for child care spaces, is pervasive.

Pat Wege of the Manitoba Child Care Association quotes day care centres with hundreds of people on waiting lists as a sign the system is in crisis.

It is true there are a lot fewer child care spaces in some parts of Winnipeg and in some communities across Manitoba than are needed. But it's hardly a crisis.

However, it is a myth -- as with doctor waiting lists -- that they are a measure of the need or a reflection of the time one may have to wait to get a spot. They are not.

People looking for child care put themselves on several lists at once. Consistently when a space opens up at a child care centre, the staff has to call many different people on their list to offer the space, as they have already found another option by that time.

So the list not only contains names of people on several lists, it also contains those who are no longer looking.

This is the same for doctor waiting lists.

That's why Gord Mackintosh announced yesterday, smartly, that the province will institute a centrally managed waiting list for child care. This will save parents from phoning around to several centres and get on those lists.

And it will prevent dishonest advocates like Wege from wildly exaggerating a situation.

She should actually be ashamed of herself for acting so churlish in the face of a government that has stepped up to the plate on child care where few other provincial governments have.

It would have been completely reasonable for the government on budget day to say "we can't afford to backfill the shortfall from the Harper government's withdrawal from the child care deal. Sorry."

But it's been a priority over the past eight budgets and that's why our child care system is the envy of most of the country.

Too bad Pat Wege can't see that.