Creating an Issue that isn't there, 101
Upon arriving home and cheking my mail tonight, I found a mailing from my MP, Conservative neophyte Pierre Poilievre. There, splashed across the entire back page, was this quote:
"The Government is pursuing a national daycare bureaucracy which will impose higher taxes on working families to pay for it and will take choices away from women and families. How is that fair? Working families from Barrhaven in my riding are discriminated against because they make the sacrifice to keep one parent in the home."
- Pierre Poilievre March 22, 2005 in the House of Commons
Powerful stuff. Of course, being a married father of two and sole bread-winner in my family for the last 5 years, I was intrigued. And since I am a member of the NDP and stand for fair taxation, I wanted to investigate further. There are some issues that are non-partisan and I am willing to support a Conservative when they have a good idea.
Unfortunately, that Conservative won't be Pierre Poilievre.
First is that bit about imposing "higher taxes on working families to pay for it" above. This is absolutely not true. The money for the National Childcare program comes from our $9 billion dollar surplus. No new taxes to get money from a surplus - we've already paid and the government already has the money. As a matter of fact, Poilievre himself seems to acknowledge that fact when, later in the same mailing, he says this:
"Conservatives will give child care dollars directly to parents. Conservative will take the dollars that the Liberals have set aside for a government daycare bureaocracy and give it directly to all parents regardless of income"Wait a minute, I thought they were going to raise taxes to pay for it? Now the money is "set aside?" Well there is the first problem.
-Pierre Poilievre's riding mailer, May 18th 2005, page 2 [emphasis mine]
Second is his assertion that families that choose to have one parent stay at home are being "penalized". Since that describes me, I did a little digging and found that this is what he means:
"If they believe in equality, why is it that the family that lives in one house and earns $50,000 a year with a single income while keeping one parent in the home pays a much higher rate of taxation than the family next door with two different incomes of $25,000? They have the same family income, yet one is penalized."Wow, that does seem unfair. Lets check this out. According to Ernst and Young, a person making $50 K in Ontario will pay $10,585 in income taxes, while two single people $3713 each or $7426, a difference of $3159.
- Pierre Poilievre, Member Statement, April 19th 2005
That's outrageous! Or is it?
First, this is not a fair comparison. It fails to take into account the various Child Tax Credits. That alone would eliminate nearly $1200 dollars of that $3159. It also fails to take into account the ability to to transfer income to a spouse that exists in the current tax laws.
But more importantly, its not a realistic comparison. People who make $50 K won't quit their job and get a $25 K job with their spouse so they can save a few hundred in taxes. Conversely, someone making $25 k can't double their income so one of the spouses can stay home. Poilievre and the Conservative Party seem to have a disconnect from reality.
The real reason parents go back to work instead of staying home is that the cost of living is so high, the have to go back. A person making $50 might be able to afford for only one person to work to support a family. A person making $25 k cannot. I personally make over $75 K and I have a hard time doing it. And that's in Ottawa, one of the more reasonable places to live. Had we stayed in Toronto, my wife would have had to go back to work, simply becasue we could not afford to live otherwise. No amount of savings on taxes would have been considered in the descision. That's the point - there is no real "choice." Most dual income families are that way due to nescesity, not want.
In that light, the tax difference is then a tax break for low income working families who have no real choice but to have both parents working. Its called Progressive Taxation. And a good National Childcare program would help these parents.
We already have to ability to claim child care and day care in our current tax system. The problem isn't with taxes, its with finding and affording daycare. When my wife and I looked into it in Toronto, we discovered that we would have had to get on a waiting list 5 months before our daughter was concieved to get a downtown spot or almost 6 months to get a spot in Newmarket (we lived at Younge and Eglinton at the time, literally one block from where my wife worked!). And being a Conservative, I'm sure Poilievre can appreciate the supply and demand pressure on the cost.
So, it is my personal experience that a national program like the one in Quebec, would provide cheap, available childcare and increase the choices for working Canadian families, who have no other choice but to have both parents working. Considering 61% of Canadians make $30 k or less, that's a lot of working famiies.
I can afford for my wife to stay home with my kids. I'm lucky. I don't mind paying extra so others can get a break.
And that is how you take a good thing in the tax code and twist it around for your own political gain. But I guess if you don't have a platform that most people would agree with, you have to get people to like you somehow.