Harper’s Social Engineering For Reals

We live in Palliser but for whatever reason we keep getting recorded campaign messages from the campaign office of Ian Shields, the Conservative candidate in Wascana. Just hung up from one now.

The message was delivered by a peppy-sounding young woman chirping about the merits of what Stephen Harper is doing for families. Among the programs she singled out for especially exuberant mention was the Family Tax Credit. Thanks to income splitting, she enthused, she is going to be able to stay at home with her kids!

Oh joy! That means I might run into her at the playground! And then I might have to do myself an injury! Or start with the laudanum!


Funny that call should come out on the same day as the latest issue. For the election feature, I wrote a piece about the state of the family (fourth item down on this page) in which I speculated — speculated — that the Family Tax Credit might be some form of backdoor social engineering — a $2.5 billion a year investment in getting women to stay at home with their kids. (Because that’s what all young women secretly really want. Amirite?) And here I get a call from a Conservative candidate essentially confirming that that is exactly the desired end goal of the FTC.

Thanks Ian! Keep those campaign messages coming!

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

8 thoughts on “Harper’s Social Engineering For Reals”

  1. I’ll admit I’m a little conflicted over income splitting – especially since the Con proposal caps it at $100K IIRC.

    I know that there ARE families who would like to have one parent stay home with the children – and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Certainly my daughter (no iconic 50s mom she) would prefer that to working at a job which, after child care, would mean she’s effectively working for less than the minimum wage.

    And there is a certain logic in addressing income on a per household basis.

    I’m wondering, if we reduced the cap to, say, $60K, would that make the proposal less distortive and more modest-income family-friendly?

  2. As far as I’m aware we don’t have income sharing yet. My husband and I have been waiting for years for it, as it would have been nice to split my income when he was home with the kids. As far as I know, currently all we get is $100/kid under 6yrs, which is then taxed. So, basically, they’ve done next to NOTHING for families in my opinion. I do think it’s nice to have one parent home with kids (although I find the implication that it MUST be the woman to be insulting) especially given the outrageous cost of child care in this country (there needs to be some sore of balance there – child care workers need to be paid fairly, but people can’t work if it costs an obscene amount to get decent care for their kids). I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m fairly sure the PCs don’t have it.

  3. Anon: You’re right. We don’t have income splitting yet. But it’s one of the planks in Harper’s election platform. That’s the Family Tax Credit I was talking about.

    As for the implication about the stay-at-home parent typically being female, that’s certainly what I took from Shields’ recorded message. But I hope you didn’t think that that’s what I was implying. I’m a stay-at-home dad myself.

    Malcolm: I have nothing against a parent staying home with their kids.

    But I am suspicious of programs that seem designed to reward staying at home when the gender inequities over which parent usually stays at home are so stark. (If I remember correctly, in the part of the country where the numbers are the most equitable — Newfoundland, I do believe — it’s three stay-at-home moms to one stay-at-home dad. But don’t quote me on that. I’m trying to hack out this comment between calls for a diaper change.)

    My suspicions become especially aroused when there are lots of other programs that already exist to support parents that could benefit heartily from the $2.5 billion Harper’s Conservatives want to use creating the FTC. The UCCB (which I don’t like but at least it’s already there) and the Canada Child Tax Benefit, for two.

    (And then, there are our schools, of course. I’m sure the provinces wouldn’t turn up their noses at a few hundred million extra earmarked for those.)

    All I’m saying is the FTC seems damn superfluous unless you figure it’s designed to support (/ placate / buy votes from) only certain types of families.

    And I should note, I’m not the only person who has noticed this….


  4. Wow. That’s absolutely the problem. It only benefits a specific group of people who tend to be Conservative. It does nothing to benefit those who need it most. Their lasdt thing (the $100/mo) benefitted everyone equally whether they needed it or not, and that bothered me, but this is even worse. It’s totally slanted to wards the people who need it least. Ok, so I am a little pissed off that they are talking about implementing this within a year of my husband returning to work, but still, it’s super irritating.

  5. Isn’t this one of those CP promises that don;t kick in till the budget’s balanced in 2015 anyway?

  6. I’ll be upfront and admit I don’t get the ins and outs of this aspect of tax policy. And I can certainly see how, especially at the high end, this kind of policy simply lowers taxes for those most able to pay them. That’s why even the Harperites think that it’s not sale-able unless it’s capped.

    I guess I’m left wondering how we support families of modest means who would prefer to have one parent stay home with the children. (I agree that it doesn’t need to be the mother, but acknowledge that for a constellation of social and economic reasons, it will most often be the mother.)

    The flip side of this is that, income splitting or no income splitting, higher income families have the capacity to choose, while most families of modest incomes don’t. What would accomplish that more effectively and with less distortion than income splitting?

  7. Truth be told, I’m also not an expert on tax policy. And maybe that’s why I don’t understand why creating a whole new tax cut for families makes sense when they could just improve the Canada Child Tax Benefit. The advantages to the CCTB — apart from it already existing — are that it’s tax free, it scales to income and the reward (for lack of a better term) it provides is for having children, not for having children under certain family conditions. Seems the fairest option to me.

    I also find the creation of this new Family Tax Credit particularly galling when the CCTB was created back in 1993 (IIRC) by the Liberals and brought together a bunch of other family benefits. The CCTB was a way to harmonize those benefits and reduce the administration costs. Instead of having three or four different programs, they brought everything under one umbrella because it was more efficient.

    By creating the FTC and the Universal Child Care Benefit before it, Harper and crew are taking a big step backward — one toward bigger, more clumsy, more expensive government. And the only justification I can see for this is that they want to have a bunch of acronyms that they can take credit for come election time.

  8. My wife and I have always been P.C. supporters, but not this election. We are sickened by Shields’ telephone campaign where he has different people call with their tales of woe. This morning it was his wife[supposedly] relating her love affair with the guy. His campaign office is too embarrassed to indicate for call display, the name of the caller.
    Try to email his campaign office – can’t be delivered.
    I doubt we’ll even take the trouble to vote since we find Shields so lacking in what we would want in an M.P. Pathetic.

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