What a difference a year makes. Barely eleven months ago, when the Martin government proposed a "working income supplement" in the mini-budget to help poorer Canadians (with kids or not), Stephen Harper called it impractical. It passed (supported by the Bloc and the NDP) as part of the Ways and Means Motion, a week before Martin fell. It was going to be phased in over a number of years starting in 2007, but it was subsequently quashed by Jim Flaherty's budget and replaced along with other things by his stupid and taxable "stay home and shut up" hundred bucks a month which goes to everyone with kids under six, even the high heeled. Parents with no kids, even single people like myself with no kids, were completely shut out, in fact our income taxes increased.
Regular readers of my column know that I believe that hundred bucks would be better if it was tax free and tacked on to the base amount of the Child Tax Benefit. (From an administrative as well as a moral standpoint.) But all working Canadians need help too. At the very least, there should be some kind of a guaranteed income for people who work. This is to encourage people to get off of welfare and into paying jobs; as well as people who have jobs that don't pay enough, to look for better work (for, as one's income increased, the supplement would decrease). Ideally, the guaranteed floor would be the poverty line but it could be either higher or lower, depending on whatever consensus is established with the provinces and territories. Also part of this, however, should be a raise in the basic exemption to a much more reasonable level.
So what do I read this morning? The brother of SCTV alumnus Joe Flaherty (that should tell you something right there), Jim is now openly musing there should be a working income supplement after all, and he may introduce it as early as the next federal budget.
Two trains of thought on this one. One, he's probably going to package it as part of a poison pill of other tax cuts, including eliminating the capital gains tax and further cuts in the GST. Two, he may be trying to clip the wings off of whoever is elected Liberal leader -- and most of the candidates, including Michaell Ignatieff (from page 19 of his platform), have made it clear they want such a supplement back into the mix of tax relief measures.
Either way, Flaherty may be finally beginning to understand that his first budget actually did a lot of damage to the poor and is trying to repair that. Of course, he'll have to get it past Stephen Harper -- and while even most business executives understand how important helping the working poor is, those who give him lifeblood, namely Big Oil, really couldn't give a damn. I think Flaherty might go to the wall on this one with Harper, just as Martin did with Chrétien on the need for the draconian spending cuts and off-loading to the provinces of the 1990s.
While you're at it, Jim, give Canadians a real child care program, eh? We Liberals wouldn't mind if you did.
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