Saturday, October 3, 2015

About those shared cost programs ...

In last night's final debate, Tom Mulcair said if he's elected, then Quebec - and only that province - would get the option to opt out of new shared cost programs, including his $15 per diem child care program.

I realize Canada has never been totally equal on social programs. For example, every province has the right to opt out of OAS and the CPP. Quebec, so far, is the only province to get out of the latter, with the RRQ. Other provinces can, presuming reciprocity in benefits is maintained - but so far, no one has. Even the proposed Ontario plan is just an add-on, not a complete substitute.

Every province can opt out of parental benefits for UI. Quebec, too, is so far the only province to do so - but that doesn't mean, as with the case above, no other province can.

As for education? Six provinces each have their own rules, including Ontario. Only four - the Maritimes and BC - are bound by the "old" rules.

The Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords each proposed that every province should be able to opt out of social programs provided they provide a substitute program that provides a similar result and objective. I think that's a good principle to follow here in the present day. If a province - any province, or territory for that matter - can provide a better program for less cost to the consumer, or even totally free, they should be able to and not be constrained by federal rules.

Personally, I favour child-care to be means-tested. Free for people on welfare and other indigents, then on a sliding scale upwards based on accurately declared income on a family's T1s. I wouldn't mind a cap-out, but even then I don't see why anyone  - even the one percent - should pay more than 20 bucks a day per child. And of course, if a family wants to raise their pre-school kids at home, I support that too, with a much enhanced amount for child benefits to reflect the offset.

But I don't support one size fits all. After all, this is Canada. We are a real federation of ten provinces and three territories. Each province may get specific rights in the Constitution, but we are not, as is sometimes alleged, Quebec and TROC ("The Rest of Canada"). Mulcair - and the other leaders, if they are so thinking - need to be reminded of that.

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