One of the country's foremost experts in early childhood development says Canada ranks last among developed nations when it comes to investment in early childhood education.

While the number of early childhood programs in Canada has increasedover the past decade,the programsremain disorganized and scattered across variouscommunities,Dr. Fraser Mustardsaid Monday.

"What we have early in terms of early childhood development, which is in this report, is chaos,"he said."And the question is how do you get order out of chaos?"

The 185-page report co-authored by Mustard ranks Canadalast among 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECDincludes the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Mexico.

Thereportfound 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.

Mustardsaid the country needs to create community hubs with child care centres, highly trained staff and extensive support programs for parents all under one roof.

Opposition targets Harper

Oppositionleadersin Ottawacitedthe report's findingsMonday in question periodin theirattackonthe Conservativegovernment's latest budget, which theyclaim failed to address the needs of Canadian children and families.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion saidthe reportshowed Ottawamust resurrect the national early learning and child care program secured withthe provinces before the last election — a planthe Tories shelved upon gaining office.

"The former Liberal government had a plan," he said. "Why on earth did the Conservative government cut this plan?"

The Conservatives have said they are supporting parents directly through their $100-a-month universal child care benefit and transferring funds to the provincesto bolster their ownchild care programs.

'Set the trajectory'

Theearly years have been shown to "set the trajectory" for how wella child does in school, as well as shape futuresocial adjustment and health,Dr. Stuart Shanker told CBC News Online Monday.

But Shanker also said boosting fundswon't help unlessa concrete plan is developedto reorganize the patchwork of programs across the country.

"It's not a case of 'let's throw a whole whack of money and the problem will go away,'" he said."What we're proposing is a preventative health model."

Shanker said the cost of behavioural and mental health issues triggered by problems in early childhood would drop if the right programs were in place.

The report is published by the Council for Early Child Development, a not-for-profit group Mustard founded in 2004.

With files from the Canadian Press