Wednesday, July 19, 2006

3P: Pretty Pathetic Propaganda

After posting the letters from Diane Finley and James Flaherty, you might think I'm trying to give them a fair shake ... and to be fair, I wanted to give both the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I hoped that either or both would move beyond the standard form letter and actually answer what was my fundamental question: How does a transfer of money from poorer families to wealthier ones (which is what happened with the so-called Universal Child Care Benefit) and turning a tax free benefit to a taxable one, help families?

The answer is, quite simply, is that it does not. There was a right way and a wrong way to do this. The Harperites chose the wrong way. The right way would have been to make it tax free -- either to all families, or on a sliding scale based on income. The feds claim that a lot of parents never bothered to apply for the old credit which is why they didn't receive it.

The problem with that argument is that to qualify for it, both parents have to file income tax returns. Many parents with zero incomes didn't bother ... maybe in good will, but this was also a lack of education on the government's part. Just as filing the census form is mandatory, so should filing an income tax return even if it is zero. (This would also solve the annual problem so many seniors face when their Guaranteed Income Supplement suddenly disappears every July.)

The three big problems, as I see it are these.
  • One, because it is taxable, the government will get some or all of it back at the rear end. Even if one spouse's income is zero, his or her partner will have to reduce his or her spousal exemption by an equal amount to the payout -- $1200. Other amounts, including the GST credit and the remaining tax-free portion of the child benefit, will also be clawed back.
  • Two, both parents must now must be Canadian citizens to get the money. The old credit was available to all legal residents in Canada ... citizens, permanent aliens and legal refugees. Tens of thousands of families have been cut off.
  • Three, the old credit was available to kids under seven. The new one, to under sixes. This is so wrong -- Grades One and Two are probably the most expensive years for parents, other than right after birth.

Maybe it's just me, or the fact I don't have kids. But if the shoes were reversed, I suspect the government would see just how wrong their priorities are. However, I am somewhat heartened by the fact that many immigrant communities in this country Canada are seeing Team Harper for what they are, especially after giving their unequivocal support for Israel and completely dismissing the aspiration of the vast majority of Arabs in the region who just want peace once and for all.

I don't think it'll be child care -- or the lack of it -- that will be the Harper government's downfall. It's their poor planning and thought on foreign policy; and speaking with a voice that doesn't speak for Canadians. They blew it on dead soldiers, they blew it on softwood lumber, and now they've blown it on the Middle East. Three strikes ... you know the rest.

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